Black Pepper soft opened last week in the former Menlo Hub space, which closed in 2014 after the owner went into debt.
Owner Kay Tan also operates Banana Leaf in Milpitas. The menu at Black Pepper is similar, with a range of Malaysian as well as Thai, Indian and Chinese dishes. Appetizers include roti prata ($4, made from scratch, Tan said in an interview), chicken satay ($16) and gado gado ($14, an Indonesian salad with jicama root, lettuce, cucumber, fried prawn cake, seared tofu and peanut sauce), among others.
The renovated Black Pepper restaurant at 1029 El Camino Real in Menlo Park.
Entrees include a range of meat and seafood dishes, from Singaporean black pepper chicken ($18) to cumin lamb chops ($28) and grilled Chilean sea bass wrapped in banana leaf ($36). There are also several noodle and rice dishes.
"This is the type of food I grew up eating," Tan said.
Tan said the menu will grow as the restaurant settles in, with new items that aren't available at Banana Leaf, she said.
With a full liquor license, there's also a cocktail menu with drinks like the "Mai-laysian Coco Rummy Tai (rum, lime, pineapple juice, peach syrup and coconut palm syrup) and the "Tequila Mangga" (tequila, mango, lime, rambutan and mango juice). All are $12 each.
The new, full bar inside Black Pepper in Menlo Park.
Tan came to the United States from Malaysia after high school and said she worked in restaurants and bars in San Francisco and throughout Peninsula while she attended college at San Francisco State University. After graduating, she worked in marketing and sales at a technology company, but eventually left it to pursue her "dream" of owning a restaurant. She opened Banana Leaf with her husband 18 years ago.
The El Camino Real space has been renovated, with a full bar, second-floor seating area and large open kitchen. The restaurant ran into some roadblocks with the city when it proposed a larger footprint for the space more than a year ago.
Black Pepper is open Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; and Saturday, 11:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Sunday.
Black Pepper is the latest newcomer to the usually sleepy Menlo Park restaurant scene, following on the heels of the revamped British Banker's Club, which reopened across the street in late December, and Yum Cha Palace, which took over the long-empty Su Hong space next door.