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[whitespace] The Village Pub
Photograph by Michelle Dudley

No Pub Grub HereThe Village Pub serves elegant dishes that belie its humble name.

It Takes A Village

A pub with character restores simplicity to the dining experience

By Joseph Izzo Jr.

I FIRST VISITED the Village Pub in fall 1978. It was a classic continental restaurant back then, known for its ritzy Menlo Park clientele and its flambé. To call it a pub was--and still is--a misnomer, although on that very first visit I did happen to witness a publike event: A female patron got so drunk she actually fell off her bar stool. Even then I knew the episode wasn't typical, but it sure made my first visit there a memorable one.

My most recent visit to the Pub was also memorable, but for different reasons. No public mishaps this time around. Or flambé. This visit was memorable because, in a day and age when dining out is often obstructed by overblown egos and tricked out menus, the Village offered refuge from desperate intensity. Nothing was overstated, hurried or gratuitous. We enjoyed good food from beginning to end, brought to our table by knowledgeable servers who didn't turn their menu item descriptions into tiresome sales pitches, or pressure us to order overpriced wine.

It seems that all vestiges of the pub part of the Village Pub have been erased. A handsomely appointed environment of dark woods, blood-red upholstery and stark white walls now unfolds before the eye. An imposing bouquet of wine-red roses on the bar matches the upholstery, and black and white photographs punctuate the room, enhancing the scene like cigarette smoke in an old Hollywood movie. Tall windows compose the front wall, looking onto a country forest full of trees in still-life poses. Many times during the evening my eyes lingered there, amid the country life so vividly exposed by those big picture windows.

Menu offerings reflected flavors from land, sea and garden. Selections were limited, which made decision-making easy.

First to our table was the Foie Gras Torchon ($17) served with Madeira gelée and a shaved apple salad. It was simple and perfect, so silky that the goose liver struck the tongue like melting butter. Diver Scallops ($13)--snatched fresh from the sea--were seared efficiently over a good hot fire producing golden surfaces and juicy interiors. Alongside came simple vegetables.

I could have spooned the Shell Bean and Escarole Soup ($8) all night long. Plump, tender white beans floated in a liquid partially based on the nutritious juices from the abundant greens. A salad of lettuces from local farms ($9) could not compete with the soup, but engaged my palate nevertheless with its brisk champagne vinaigrette. With the salad came spicy niçoise crostini or seasoned toasted bread cubes. Roasted dark like the color of mahogany, the Service for Two Rib Eye Steak ($26 per person) had all of my guests begging forkfuls. Our waiter cut this prime rib slab into slices, arranging them on two plates with a garlicky bordelaise sauce. A miniature bucket of crunchy French fries accompanied. I found myself reaching across two plates to get at them.

Duck Two Ways ($28) also earned high marks. The nut-colored bird divided the plate with a crispy thigh and leg on one side, medallions of rare breast on the other. No heavy seasonings or marinades distorted the rich natural flavors. It came with potato blini and champagne grapes.

Prosciutto Wrapped Wild Salmon ($24) achieved an improbable union between land and sea. The cured Parma ham (with its delicate salty infusions) embraced the sweet succulent fish. Sides of red cabbage and gnocchi and chanterelles rounded this dish into a culinary feast.

Spoons went flying when desserts hit the table. With chocolate soufflé to my left, huckleberry crepes--stuffed with ricotta--to my right, and three guests in between, dangerous conditions developed. Despite the commotion, I sat back to enjoy the view. The sight of the trees, the dark woods and white walls, the photographs, put me at ease.

The Village Pub
Address: 2967 Woodside Road, Woodside
Phone: 650.851.9888
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Mon-Fri; dinner 5-10pm Sun-Thu, till 11pm Fri-Sat
Cuisine: New American
Price Range: $24-$30

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From the November 1-7, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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