10 Best New Bay Area Restaurants

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.

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Brussels Sprouts ($12) at The Lexington House in Los Gatos. I know, I know — lots of places do Brussels sprouts these days. And some do it exceedingly well. Even so, the version here is really one of the best. What sets it apart is its mix of textures. Most of the leaves are charred to bring out their caramelized sweetness. But some single leaves are left raw to lend added crunch and freshness. Of course, there’s smoked bacon. But there’s also Greek yogurt and local honey, giving the dish a voluptuousness you sure don’t expect with Brussels sprouts.

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The dining menu at Lexington House is plated and served in the style of fine New American dining. Not to be missed dishes include the artfully plated, textures of beet, with strawberries and honey mascarpone, as well as the Maitake mushrooms, with creamy burrata and toasted crumbs. The restaurant’s bar program features curious cocktail creations made with small batch spirits, craft beer and limited-production wine. Co-founder and bartender, Jimmy Marino develops many of the cocktails including the novel, yet enjoyable Coffee & Cigarette.