8 restaurants to check out

The Bay Area is open again, and there is a ton of varied, compelling new food to try on the Peninsula: fluffy Milan-style pizza, tender pastrami sandwiches and super crispy Korean fried chicken, best paired with an ice cold beer. Plus, Sunnyvale is home to a new permanent food truck market.

It’s an exciting time to dine out again. Read on for more on eight new restaurant openings on the Peninsula.

The Mandarin, Menlo Park

Tea-smoked duck from the Mandarin, newly open in Menlo Park.

Nee Lau

The Mandarin, a new two-level Chinese restaurant in Menlo Park at 1029 El Camino Real, is serving ambitious, labor-intensive dishes: An eight treasure duck takes 48 hours to make, while a whole fish gets deboned, turned inside out, carved into an artful shape and doused in a fire-hose red sweet and sour sauce.

It’s owner Nee Lau’s first project, though his family has long run restaurants. The native of Guangdong, China, said he wants the Mandarin to be a place where Chinese cuisines that are lesser known in the United States can coexist with kung pao and orange chicken. The Mandarin’s chef, Rui Young, previously cooked at San Francisco Sichuan favorite Z&Y Restaurant.

“My goal is to build this restaurant to let people explore the different Chinese cuisine, to open their eyes to Chinese food they’ve never had before,” Lau said.

As such, the Mandarin’s menu is wide-ranging. There’s tea-smoked duck, Cantonese salt-baked chicken (wrapped in tofu skin and cooked slow and low in salt with ginger and onion) and Sichuan whole fish in a spicy black bean sauce. The showstopping eight treasure duck is stuffed with sticky rice, peanuts, black mushroom, dried shrimp, scallops and salted egg yolk. Soon, the restaurant will have a live fish tank and expand its seafood dishes.

The name of the restaurant pays homage to pioneering Chinese chef Cecilia Chiang and her San Francisco restaurant the Mandarin. Chiang popularized many dishes on his menu, like tea-smoked duck and twice-cooked pork. When the original Mandarin closed, Lau purchased much of the decor and the host stand at an auction — though the items remain at his house, and not at the restaurant.

Indoor dining, takeout and delivery. Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday- Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Closed Monday. 1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. 650-391-9811.

Refuge, San Mateo

The outdoor patio at Refuge's new San Mateo location.

The outdoor patio at Refuge’s new San Mateo location.

Matt Levin

Pastrami favorite Refuge finally debuted its much-anticipated third location at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo in late June, as part of the center’s buzzy North Block, which has become its own dining destination with restaurants including Palette Tea House and Shake Shack. The newest Refuge celebrates the same tender pastrami as the other two restaurants. Pastrami — which is brined, lightly smoked and then steamed for hours — comes piled high on toasted rye bread for reuben sandwiches, sliced thin over beef patties for a pastrami burger with Russian dressing or in hunks over a chopped salad. Look for new menu items only served at Refuge San Mateo, like barbacoa nachos and a burger topped with mole sauce, plus lots of Belgian beer on tap.

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