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San Jose, California
January 4, 2008
November 26, 2004
The menu is replete with descriptive titles that start your juices flowing. Take, for example, the Double Baked Three Cheese Souffle ($8.95) appetizer and Crab Cakes with Housemade Remoulade and Petite Salad ($9.95). The soufflé looked like a country biscuit, but this was no biscuit bumpkin. Parmesan, fontina, and ricotta cheeses blended well into a smooth tang, and the soufflé was almost light enough to hover above the lightly dressed greens that adorned the plate. Delicate crab cakes the size of silver dollars had a crunchy cornmeal crust; remoulade added a creamy accent of hot peppers.
I ordered the Stuffed Watsonville Artichoke to show support for the locals. However, when it appeared, I remembered why I never ordered stuffed artichokes: too often it is too much work for too little reward. By the time you forage down to the heart of the matter, your fingers are greasy, and you’re left with a pile of half bitten leaves that have no place to go but your small appetizer plate. The artichoke comes stuffed with herbed breadcrumbs, but moisture from the cooking process has transformed the crumbs into mush.
My Sesame Cabbage Chicken Salad mixed finely julienned red, green, and Savoy cabbage with flakes of crispy wonton skins and bits of chicken in a sesame vinaigrette. It was delicious.
Siena offers a selection of sandwiches, pastas, and meat and seafood dishes for your main course. Although the dishes generally do not disappoint, accidents happen. The open-faced Greek Vegetarian Sandwich sported a mound of romaine lettuce, olives, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, artichokes, and cucumbers atop a disk of pita bread hard enough to play Frisbee with ($9.25). Attempting to slice the hard pita with a knife was dangerous, and the too-widely sliced leaves of romaine prohibited eating this sandwich like a pizza. I ended up pushing off the toppings, which left me feeling like I had ordered a Greek salad with a side of Frisbee.
Thankfully, the Cavatappi with Wild Mushrooms more than made up for the Vegetarian sandwich. Shitakes; morels; and portabella and button mushrooms are perfectly sautéed in a brandy cream sauce; and cavatappi pasta, shaped like long chubby corkscrews, were pillowy soft.
Despite a few misses, Siena’s virtues–idyllic ambience, varied menu, and a chef’s deft hand at combining flavors-make this bistro a true find once you find it.
From journal Restaurants in Silicon Valley