Chill factor at ASA Los Altos comes from ambience, open facade

At some point, this relentless winter will turn to spring, and al fresco dining will be once more a reality. Until then, far and away the place to see and be seen for lunch in Los Altos these days is ASA, with its unique semi-outdoor seating.

Along with fresh air, it offers abundant opportunities for drinking in sunshine or a glass of something amazing from the wine list: perhaps a glass of 2015 Caraccioli Cellars Brut Cuvée from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Paolo Conterno Langhe Nebbiolo is versatile and smooth and can accompany a sizable portion of the menu items perfectly, including the Good For You Chicken soup with its tomato-accented broth, the anchovy bread and the ASA chili-rubbed chicken cabbage salad, in which melty morsel of Bleu d’Auvergne—a modern riff on the classic Roquefort, but made from cow’s milk instead of sheep—are lurking, waiting to take the Dijon mustard vinaigrette  laced with aged Iberico Jamon bits to another level.

The ordering system is done online via Tock, so bring your smartphone, although printed menus were in use by the majority of the clientele on a recent visit. Your electronic order goes right to the kitchen, and attentive servers bring you your drinks and food with great dispatch.

Many restaurants are going the online route, put in place to mitigate the staffing shortage. But fear not the elimination of the human touch, as we were capably chaperoned through our dining experience by the lovely Italian-born Rossella Pascuzzi, who expertly recommended the decadent house-made burrata stuffed with ricotta. Save room for Dungeness crab toast, seared Albacore with aioli and capers, French dip and a halibut tostada await. Diners can pay electronically anytime, without waiting for the cheque.

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With another Oscar night blessedly behind us, this one without slapping and slapstick, one fondly remembers movies that had tremendous societal impact, memorable plots and an ageless quality that keeps them top of mind. With that, you might want to know that Graduate Hotel is now open at 488 Hamilton Ave. in Palo Alto, with two new dining venues. President’s Terrace is the first public rooftop bar in Palo Alto, and is named in honor of the structure’s former moniker, President Hotel. Lou & Herbert’s, an all day café, is named for the former president and Stanford alum Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou, the first Stanford woman to graduate with a geology degree from the institution.

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The Terrace specializes in seafood and stiff craft cocktails, with a spectacular view of downtown. One can’t help but think that Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and Ben (Dustin Hoffman) would have reveled in a nightcap here, complete with a laugh over the astute prediction that plastics were indeed the future.

In other hotel action, AC TETRA Hotel Moffett Park by Marriott, at 1235 Bordeaux Drive in Sunnyvale, recently opened their first gin bar, fittingly called GIN BAR @ AC, which tells the history of gin in a series of 12 cocktails, each featuring Sipsmith London Dry Gin. Of course, there’s a Corpse Reviver, classic martini and a Ramos fizz, along with international gins like Bayab from South Africa and Tenjaku from Japan, plus local examples from Venus Spirits in Santa Cruz and Pacific House Gin in San Francisco. AC TETRA Hotel restaurants onsite include AC Kitchen and TETRA’s Nokori Japanese whisky bar, Adrestia restaurant and Coffee Manufactory.

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