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Photograph by George Sakkestad

No Shoes, With Service: Susan Huang and Dong Zhao dine in comfort at Global Village.

Small World, Big Ideas

Global Village offers sights and bites that conjure up distant destinations, weaving elements of east and west, north and south, into a melange of creative offerings

By Joseph Izzo Jr.

IT'S NO SURPRISE that a trek to the restroom at the Global Village reveals a photo essay of the owner's world travels. Every inch of this place is devoted to the celebration of geographic diversity, so why should the loo be any exception? They also happen to be mounted beautifully and worth the time to peruse. I lingered over a shot of Greece and began to imagine what it would be like to be not here but there, right now, under the warm sun standing in front of an ancient ruin with the Aegean shimmering in the background.

Such is the gift of imagination in collaboration with the clever design of this restaurant's decor, an environment that can transport the senses to a time and place off the beaten track of daily existence. Global Village makes a heroic effort to do just that, to send you off to another land by offering sights and tastes that conjure up images of distant destinations.

The theme of travel is well represented in just about all aspects of this exciting establishment. One wall depicts a scene from an Italian village with bright colors and shutters you'd imagine along some narrow passage to the ocean. It's a warm and charming scene without being sentimental. From the windows you can spy the comings and goings of renovated Castro Street, a scene that in and of itself trips one's being into some international locale that's not here, not there, but everywhere, somehow.

Things cool substantially on the other side of the room, decorated with a fashionable high-tech austerity. The open ceiling, the track lighting, the contrast between dark and light, the straight angles that confront like clockwork. But why have Internet stations at the tables? Ostensibly, the idea is that while dining you can watch the web equivalent of a slide show, or plan a trip, or do whatever. But in my opinion, enough is enough. Computers don't belong at the dinner table, people do. If computer interaction is what you expect from a night out at a restaurant, it's a sad commentary on the deterioration of the most basic social ritual. For a coffeehouse or a burger joint, maybe the computer would fly. For anything nicer, think again.

In keeping with the theme of travel--a high point here, obviously--chef Dan Valdez has created a menu that weaves elements of the world into a compendium of creative offerings. The buzzword today is fusion, and here the commingling of ethnic influences works quite effectively. The majority of the dishes we sampled struck a fine balance, coupling north with south, east with west, without seeming forced or overworked by an overzealous imagination.

Dinner got off to a good start with a round of Moroccan lamb spring rolls ($7.95), deep-fried crisp without a trace of oil aftertaste. Each wrapper was filled with a mince of spicy lamb and vegetables and arranged around dollops of cilantro pesto. Kudos continued with a tapenade trio ($6.95) composed of olives, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes and set atop flash-fried pita chips. Delicious.

We had problems with the Kalbi short ribs ($8.95), though--a Korean specialty here translated into grilled, thin-sliced short ribs drenched in a cloying sauce with an even sweeter cucumber relish. The meat was very good; the sauce was not.

Out of the three entrees we sampled that night, two displayed the reasons why fusion is so popular today. Our filet mignon ($22.95), framed in tender bok choy, came from the pan juicy and medium rare, atop a bed of scallion mashed potatoes and a roasted portobello mushroom.

Over a bed of Peruvian blue mashed potatoes came our swordfish selection ($17.95) flanked by capers and kalamata olives and dressed with a balsamic cracked-pepper vinaigrette. The yellow and red sweet peppers could have been eliminated from the mix.

We tried to like the portobello and shiitake bandolini ($13.95), but could not. The dark side of fusion reared its hoary head at this point. The ingredients--as stated--were all present and accounted for, but were set adrift in a thick asiago and garlic cream. All the ingredients seemed embattled against each other, offering more confusion than solace. One sampler aptly wondered, "What am I supposed to taste?"

Of our desserts, the most satisfactory was the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, a match made in heaven as far as I'm concerned, and one that made the rounds at our table that evening. Don't miss it when offered.

The owners of this restaurant should be proud of their serving staff. Everybody seemed enthusiastic the night we went, and willing to go the extra step to make our night out a pleasurable experience. It was our waitress who distilled the philosophy of the place: "Food, travel, and high technology," she announced with a smile that betrayed an inner knowledge of the arcana here at the Global Village.

Global Village Café
Address: 209 Castro St., Mountain View
Phone: 650.965.4821
Hours: Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner daily 5:30-10pm (until 9pm Sun.)
Cuisine: Fusion
Prices: $9-$22.95

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From the March 30-April 5, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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