Quietly and without much fanfare, Woodside’s new Station 1 has emerged as one of Silicon Valley’s few destination restaurants. The tiny restaurant is the work of a talented chef who is creating some truly delicious and inventive food.
Housed in a rustic, shabby chic building that was once a fire station and more recently John Bentley’s restaurant, Station 1 exudes a warm charm with its fireplace ablaze and wooden tables and wall. The food can be described as new American, but there’s a Japanese undercurrent that runs throughout the food, with delicate, well-composed plates that often appear broken down into their constituent parts.
Executive chef Zack Freitas was chef de cuisine at Commis in Oakland, an outstanding restaurant started by Manresa protege James Syhabout. Chef Zack Freitas, who also worked under David Kinch at Manresa, employs a few modern techniques like dehydrating slices of prosciutto, infusing radishes with honey and maple syrup and pressing pomelo juice into blocks of pomelo rind. But his culinary tricks are subtle and don’t crowd into the foreground. FreitasÕ food walks a delicate balance between spare and ornate, flashy and stripped down.
Service is smooth and polished. Given the brief menu descriptions, it’s up to servers to describe each dish in great deal, and they know the food well and speak about it with enthusiasm. The menu is deceptively simple. On my visits, there were just five starters, three entrees and three desserts. The prix fixe menu goes for a reasonable $49. The spare descriptions of the food on the menu don’t begin to describe what’s in store for you.
Meals start with an amuse bouche, on my visits, little cups of chilled soup, cardoon and potato. If it’s still on the menu, head straight for the smoked gnocchi. Crispy outside and silken inside, the little dumplings taste like cubes of bacon fat, unctuous and meaty. The addition of curling strands of Anaheim chiles provides a lively, vegetal counternote to the rich gnocchi. Pureed chard and plantain round out this great opening dish.
My other favorite was the early asparagus salad. This was the first taste of asparagus I’ve had in 2011, so that was enjoyable enough, but the purple spears were paired with sliced strawberries, mache (a delicate little lettuce) and those blocks of pressed pomelo I mentioned. The combination of sweet, salty and bitter was wonderful. If the asparagus salad is a taste of spring, the slow-poached egg starter is firmly rooted in winter. The rich egg rests on top of some truly buttery butter beans and chunks of crusty linguica.
Given that there were only three entrees, it was easy to get a taste of everything. Chicken on the round is a supremely tender chicken dish that arrives in an unexpected form: white meat rolled into a blunt cylinder that’s first been cooked sous-vide (in a vacuum-sealed bag) and then beautifully browned in the pan. It’s served with a bit of broccoli and a block of cheese-fortified grits. This makes for a satisfying combination of high-tech technique and down-home goodness.
Freitas takes a less-is-more approach to fish. The halibut is poached in olive oil and otherwise unadorned. But it’s served with an array of sauces and stubby “thumb” carrots, chunks of kohlrabi and a jumble of meaty beech mushrooms. On another visit, the halibut was served in a similar fashion but with roasted dry-farmed potatoes, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and pleasantly bitter mustard greens.
One of the most traditional entrees was the delicious waygu tri-tip served with more of those potatoes and Hen-of-the-Wood mushrooms and the exotic addition of smoky black-garlic puree and tangy wood sorrel leaves.
There’s a short and reasonably priced wine list with a few gems on it as well as a full bar and list of inventive cocktails.
Meals finish very strong with pastry chef Paul Shields’ desserts. The artisan cheese plate is a nice bridge between dinner and dessert. Light and crisp house-made rosemary crackers are served with aged Fiscalini cheese, chevre and smoked blue cheese along with a currant jelly and honey. The Meyer lemon/poppy seed cake wrapped in fruit leather is a winner, but the real star is the maple custard—sublimely rich and creamy custard accented with a whiskey caramel sauce and crisp wafer of pecan brittle.
Station 1 doesn’t toot its horn too loudly, but the food, professional staff and comfortable setting create a restaurant worth shouting about.