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“Disappointing to say the least”
Review of 231 Ellsworth - CLOSED

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231 Ellsworth
Price range: $31 - $50
Cuisines: American, Seafood, Contemporary
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: Between 2nd and 3rd Ave.
Transit: Less than five minute walk to Caltrain San Mateo station
Reviewed February 11, 2012

If you expect a Michelin rated experience, this is a major major disappointment. If you expect inventive fresh California cuisine, you will be even more frustrated. An underwhelming, disappointing experience. That said, this is (according to locals) a very nice place to have a quiet intimate dinner - that is, if you enjoy a no window, wide open room, lack of aesthetic, and large table format. Hardly romantic, but good for business oriented dinners. From what we understand about restaurants in San Mateo, this is one of the few places where the ability to hold a conversation and where you can hear one another is possible. While we knew about the menu format - it is a prix fixe tasting menu (choose 3 or more courses from a good size number of choices), we found everything we ordered to be consistently tasteless, oversalted, and not fresh food quality. Also, even though we elected three courses so we had two per course to share, twice we waited more than 20 minutes in between courses for the next course to appear - was it a case of a slow kitchen or staff not paying attention? For a nearly empty restaurant, that was just plain bizarre.

There is an extensive (phone book sized) list of wines by the bottle - for California, the land of great wineries, the restaurant list was predictable, common, and overpriced - most wines were all 4x price marked or more. They really needed to have a tried and true featured wines and some way to better balance this (spending $100 for a $20 regular priced bottle of mass produced common label wine is annoying - especially when it is nothing special). You do have the option of adding a "wine pairing" to your meal for $20 pp (their choices of wine poured, unknown to you), which may be a good thing considering limited choices of reasonably priced bottles. Do ask the "wine steward" (who later was our waiter) for other wine bottle options that may not be evident - he pointed us to a very decent $65 bottle from a boutique unknown California vintner who buys his grapes from other wineries and does limited production.

Overall, the food left a lot to be desired especially for the quality it is supposed to be, this was some of the most disappointing fare we have ever had. California is a state known for inventive and fresh cuisine - and we got neither. For example, the lobster caesar (sounds amazing on the menu) consisted of nice pieces of lobster on stalks of very inedible bitter romaine covered by a thin layer of a milky tasteless covering (not even close to being any kind of fresh made caesar) and after the fact had a few crumbles of waxy parmesan added for effect not flavor or substance. It should be noted that none of the ingredients were blended - the lobster claw pieces were devoid of dressing or any seasoning - as if they were placed on top of the icky romaine naked. I ate the lobster and left the mess of the awful bitter rest. So far, not good. We tried all the soups offered (given the great menu descriptions) a nice touch for a chilly and rainy night - but in actuality they were all pureed to a point where any unique flavor was obliterated and it did not matter what the original ingredients were, the flavors were drowned out by overly excessive creme and salt - that was all you tasted. Two spoonfuls and gave back the majority of each. Next! Crab canneloni appetizer was good, but the delicate flavors were overwhelmed by excessive salt. The "main" courses were problematic - think of them not as main dish sized but as more appetizer sized given their scale. Scallops consisted of two (!!) small quarter sized microscopic scallops placed in middle of a pickled beets melage. The combination of sweet and salty flavors was interesting, even if the scallop (protein) portion was non-existent. Still hungry. The salmon portion was a nothing to rave about and came out medium well. It looked and tasted like pre-frozen fare - the dead give away was the regulated size and shape that everyone got - what was the big deal? We've had better and much much fresher fish quality and tastier fare presented by local Silicon Valley food trucks! There are very yummy homemade chocolate truffles offered at the end of the meal - this was especially welcomed since we were still very hungry from having not eaten the majority of the portions of each of the courses.

Throughout the evening, several people waited on us and different people came to the table to clear it or to do something - were were never sure who are main server was, who was the wine steward, or who to talk to about anything, but everyone was very nice, even if inattentive for long intervals. It should be noted that no one ever asked at any time whether we enjoyed the course, needed anything else, or the like. Lastly, it took forever to valet - the street competes with a busy drug store next door that needs the same lane to turn in where the valet is set up. Made for more time to park and then to leave. Add 20 plus extra wasted minutes for this as well.

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Thank netcapital
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (33)
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16 - 20 of 33 reviews

Reviewed January 21, 2012

This is quite simply San Mateo's finest restaurant for food, service and wine. The service is impeccable, the wine list is second to none in the United States (yes I said United States) and this is the perfect place for a special occasion or to impress a client.

This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 3, 2011

A Michelin recommended restaurant-231 Ellsworth not only shines in the prix fixe menus you can indulge in the large dining room, you can also sample some outstanding bites at the very cosy bar area where the staff makes you feel comfortable and welcomed.

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Thank alee350
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 15, 2011

A colleague and I eat dinner at about 7 PM on a Thursday night. While Viognier was probably my first choice, the menu used to be rather odd in that you had to select 3-5 entrees at a fixed price. So, I thought we’d try 231 Ellsworth based on rating. When we arrived and took one look at the drab, dark, panel-lined walls (no windows), and hardly any quests in the dining room, we opted for the bar (near the windows). We looked at the menu and it was the same odd format that Viognier used! I later found out the guy that used to manage Viognier now manages here. Crap… We decided to select some items off the “Bar Food” list. I had chicken wings and fish and chips. The chicken wings were frozen, quite small, and over-cooked to the point that it was difficult to distinguish bone from meat; however, the sauce/blue cheese was tasty. The fish and chips also came with abundant frozen fries and 3 small pieces of “fresh” Halibut. The fries were overkill and not well suited for “fine” dining; the deep-fried Halibut was okay. All in all, on a busy night in San Mateo, I can see why this place was near empty. Very disappointing indeed…

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Thank rm84fm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 2, 2010

Ate here recently during my stay in San Mateo.

It was raining so the valet parking suited my wife and sister perfectly. Meet at the door and given a warm welcome.

Upon going through to the main dining area we were taken aback by the room. It was quite strange to say the least. Cannot put my finger on it but I think they could do so much more with the room. It was quite boxy with a lot of open space.

The guy that brought us down our water and bread welcomed back my brother who had eaten here 6 months ago. Very impressive and mad us feel a little bit special.

Our server (sorry I cannot remember your name) a very bubbly Afrian American girl is probably the best waitress I have ever experienced. She explained the menu setup which was a little confusing but my goodness did dhe know here menu. She new all about the beef type down to the herd, the mix of the herd, where the herd originated etc, etc. She knew every detail on the wine, grape etc. We quizzed here a little on the French wine slection and she got it bang on. Well done and you probably made the dining exeprience for us.

The food. 3 out of 4 of the party went for the Fois Gois. Unfortunately I was not one of them. The Fois Gois was just fantastice and with the wine pairing a perfect match. I went for the crab with a vouvray wine pairing. It was fine but the wine was great. My wife won this round.

For entree 3 of us went with the Kobe beef and my brother the duck. Again the beef and the wine was well matched. My first bit of the beef was a little tough while the other 2 said their beef was fine. A few bits later the other 2 agreed that the beef at the end of the cut was tough. This was such a pity as it was actually a little over cooked at the edge of the cut which made it that little bit chewy. My brother didn't share his duck but later told us that it was his best ever.

All in all the experience was great. Fine dining at a good level with very knowledgable servers with an eagle eye when it comes to free pouring the wine pairing :-).

I would recommend it here but make sure you plan your evening around it and do not rush as it is expensive.

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Thank 43Saul
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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