By Jackie Burrell, Jennifer Graue and Jessica Yadegaran for San Jose Mercury News
5 LEXINGTON HOUSE
The vibe: Judging by the crowded patio on weekend evenings, there isn't anyone in Los Gatos who hasn't heard about Lexington House. Thank goodness for the enticing list of craft cocktails concocted by co-owners Jimmy Marino and Stephen Shelton, which makes the wait at this no-reservations place infinitely more pleasurable.
Once seated in the rustic-modern space with gleaming, polished wood and exposed brick and ductwork, diners are treated to chef Philippe Breneman's beautifully plated dishes that combine layers of flavor and texture in ways that make them memorable, like the peanut and mushroom shumai ($14) that will go down as one of the best bites we tried all year.
Make sure to request some of the complimentary bread, baked by sous chef Jennifer Pender. Typically, it's brioche through the week, with special offerings on weekends like a crusty, savory olive pain d'epi or bacon biscuits.
Although the restaurant is usually closed on Sundays, there's a once a month Sunday Brunch and Punch that always fills up fast. Monday night is the popular burger night, with an ever changing array of toppings, but get there early, as they only have enough to make a certain number and when they're gone, they're gone.
The dish: The menu changes frequently as seasons shift and inspiration strikes, but one thing we discovered was that while things like the steak and chicken were excellent, some main courses diners might overlook (such as squid or a bowl of grits on our particular visits) were the surprise hits of the evening. In other words, diners who reach outside their comfort zones could be deliciously rewarded.