Mountain View Voice

Eating Out - April 4, 2014

Around the world, one plate at a time

Downtown Mountain View's Cijjo's has something for everyone

by Sheila Himmel

If you Google the word "Cijjo" you get the restaurant in Mountain View, and only the restaurant in Mountain View. That is by design. The three-month-old Cijjo Cosmopolitan Tapas Lounge is one of a kind.

The owners are Silicon Valley finance and technology buddies who have traveled and eaten all over the world, and wanted a place to eat that way at home. One of them came upon a little store in Spain called Cijjo and liked the sound of it, which is: "SAI-jo."

Many restaurants take liberties with the tapas concept, calling anything on a small plate a tapa. Cijjo pays respect to the Spanish origin of tapas, which range from bar snacks to omelets that go particularly well with cocktails and wine.

For co-owner and general manager Trisha Pham, the idea is: "Everyone can get what they want and be happy."

Another common tapas misconception is that they are somehow related to fusion. At Cijjo, each dish reflects its country of origin, with accommodation for California ingredients.

Food, wine and even beers on draft (such as wood-aged Gentlemen's Club ale) change often. Small producers populate the international wine list. Advice and tastes are freely given, and you get to choose from a refreshingly large selection of wines by the glass.

Customer-friendly, the gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan items are also starred. Ninety-percent of the menu gets a star.

The international charcuterie plate ($15) glistens with ribbons of French-style duck prosciutto, Italian bresaola (air-dried beef) and fabulous jamon Iberico de bellotta, the cured leg of Spanish acorn-fed pig on display at the bar. All are delicious in their own way, and this platter is enough for four people to share. On the down side, all this lovely meat came with a couple of cornichons and wimpy bread. Better bread and a little mustard might be nice.

Westphalia pork belly ($15) was also very tasty. Rubbed in spice and braised, the meat was rich but not too fatty. Cantaloupe puree adds color but will be better when cantaloupe is in season.

Three medium-size scallops ($14), possibly bigger scallops cut in half, were dull, despite their accompaniments of red onion, green chili and lime.

Piedmont truffle fries ($6) were thin, crispy and not drowning in white truffle butter. Served in a wax-paper lined cone, they were flecked with Parmesan and chives.

The Lyonnaise salad ($9) married a creamy, warm poached egg with salty, chewy diced lardons, but the curly leaves of frisee, on which they made their bed, lacked oomph. Maybe the dressing was a little dull.

Our server, snappy in a tie and vest, was uncommonly helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. When asked, he made good suggestions about both wine and food.

He recommended the Bahamian bread pudding ($8), a swirl of coconut milk, currants and caramel rum sauce, easily shared by two.

Like the servers, the restaurant is dressed up. There are purple curtains, dramatic lights and each white table gets a vase of bright flowers.

Things are evolving for the 80-seat restaurant, which opened Dec. 26. Some dishes feel like too much ado. The owners found that the all-small-plates menu didn't appeal to everyone, so added some larger dishes such as squid ink pasta, chorizo and mussels, fish and chips and tarte flambe. They started with dinner only, then added lunch and Sunday brunch, and soon will have a Saturday brunch.

Cijjo Cosmopolitan Tapas Lounge

246 Castro St., Mountain View.

650-282-5401

www.cijjomv.com

Reservations: yes

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street and city lots

Alcohol: full bar

Children: no

Outdoor dining: yes

Party and banquet facilities: yes

Noise level: comfortable

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent

Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Tues.-Fri. Happy Hour 4-6 p.m., Tues.-Fri. Dinner 5-10 p.m., Tues.-Sun. Brunch 10:30-3 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

Comments

Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Thanks for doing this review.

I wanted to point out an error that some of us caught and corrected in earlier writing on the Voice website about this new restaurant (links below), but that unfortunately reappeared in this review.

This restaurant's novel name is correctly phoneticized "sy-jo," not "shai-jo." That was a point of confusion created by the web site, as I'll explain.

This information comes directly and emphatically from co-owners Jon Tran and Trisha Pham, who asked me in the past to make it clear. Jon said he put the phoneticization "shai-jo" originally on the restaurant's web site; he told me he'd intended the H to be "silent," as in sy-jo, and that he planned to correct the web site to make this clearer (which evidently hasn't happened yet, no doubt amid the myriad issues that new restaurateurs must deal with). All of the restaurant's personnel, including the owners, say it "sy-jo."

Web Link

Web Link


Posted by A, a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 5, 2014 at 6:42 am

We went a few month ago. The food wasn't good and over priced. The bill came out to be $50 a person for 4 dishes and dessert, no drinks. We weren't that full since all the dishes are on the small side. For that much money, I rather go next door to Kappo Nami Nami.

I will gladly pay for good food but bottom line, the food sucked. Don't waste your money.


Posted by Clinton, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 5, 2014 at 8:37 am

I went here last week and here are my impressions. The decor is quite nice. The waiter was pleasant although encouraging us to buy bottled flat water seems unnecessary in Mountain View. The menu was interesting, but on our vegetarian evening had only few options which was surprising since there are so many things chefs can do with small plates and veggies/grains. The one vegetarian small plate (outside of salad) was delicious and artfully presented. We ordered two salads and one was nice, the other not so interesting with young lettuce and little flavor. They were out of the dessert we ordered. So it was a pricey ($45) for a very light meal (we went somewhere else later for dessert). I can't see us returning unless they adjust their menu.


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 5, 2014 at 10:28 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

More information from practical customer experience. I've had a dozen meals or snacks so far, and Cijjo hosted a neighborhood party.

I'd advise anyone interested not just to check out Cijjo for themselves, but spend some time getting to know the menu and its range (tips below). Some one-visit comments appearing online recall the proverbial group of people trying to judge an elephant by touch: each encounters a different part, not realizing it isn't the whole picture at all.

Key quirk that has thrown off a few folks' early impressions: portion sizes of the many "small plates" vary widely. Some, at $10-15, can almost fill you up; others are delicate little compositions. Some people complain about prices after, unknowingly, ordering mainly the smaller-portioned items, but that doesn't reflect the whole menu; other price-conscious diners I've heard from have come away very well satisfied. (This resembles the situation at Gochi, a Japanese-accented tapas counterpart that now has an outpost on Castro past ECR.)

Unfortunately, Cijjo's menu offers little guidance on portioning size and some of them surprised me. I've taken to asking about it first.

Cijjo's 4-6pm Tu-Fri happy hour menu ("tasting" portions of some items, $4-6 in the bar area) is a way to get an inexpensive peek at Cijjo's style, though from only a fraction of the full dinner menu's range. During "happy hour," a few people can sample Cijjo's fare, with a glass of beer or wine, for $15 or even $10 per person, I've done this several times.

What I find positive, praiseworthy, and unusual at Cijjo are, first, the wine-bar plus small-plates format, a versatile dining concept useful for anything from quick snacks to special-occasion dinners. Second, Cijjo's classically-trained chef has shown clear signs of gastronomic insight, even genius. I mentioned some standout dishes in a January report: Web Link

I don't choose Cijjo as an everyday or bargain restaurant, but the unusual format and offerings certainly enhance our downtown. Maybe not everyone will see that, but many locals have already told me they have.


Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 5, 2014 at 10:33 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

PS: Sunday brunch service started a couple weeks ago and is reportedly hugely popular.

SATURDAY brunch service starts today.


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