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650 Eats: Poke, Tajines, and More

Korean sticky ribs from Pacific Catch. Photo courtesy of trycaviar

Not one but two eateries have new outposts in San Mateo after opening in San Francisco. A taste of fresh seafood and Hawaiian poke are part of the sparkling new restaurants popping up in the 650. There’s a nice long list of sweet treats at another new café spot, although it’s no problem to start with savory and let those taste buds go from there.   

A fresh fish option has landed in San Mateo with this week’s opening of Pacific Catch. Nab a daily fresh fish catch, or score some just-as-fresh crab, fish tacos, Japanese rice bowls, ceviche, sushi or even something from a Hawaiian-themed poke bar. If that doesn’t speak to you, there’s always Korean sticky ribs to tempt and … stick!

Wise eaters advise to save room for a dulce de leche fried spring roll for dessert and mojitos are something of a must throughout one's visit. Designated drivers can indulge with French press coffee that is as strong as it is decadent. The front of the restaurant has open space to admire the bar and kitchen, and those seeking a quieter and milder experience can head towards the back room, shhhhhh. In expansion news, the first Pacific Catch opened in San Francisco a decade ago, and there are now Marin and Campbell locations… with plans to open a sixth Pacific Catch in Mountain View next year. 243 South B St., San Mateo (650) 558-1000. 

The other business making the jump from San Francisco to San Mateo is 100% Sweet Cafe, which is really a creative hodgepodge of culture and cuisine and yes there are sweet treats to live up to the spot’s name. Find your favorite in the menu's iron pot rice bowls, Korean pancakes, eggettes, milk tea, snow ice and the highly desirable and rightly tropical mango shaved ice are all here. The slew of desserts also covers peanut butter French toast to coconut-y noodles and puddings and beyond. Squint just right and you’ll remember this was the spot that indeed housed Sergio’s House of Pasta—now the scene is decidedly more Hong Kong-inspired with a Red Forest drink that is all mixed berries and bubbly water. 205 E. 4th Ave., San Mateo; (650) 777-7199. 

More Moroccan food on the scene: in October, San Mateo saw the opening of the Moroccan themed Fassia, where plates of aromatic couscous and terrific tajines grace the menu. Now the ever growing town of San Carlos has its own Moorish dining experience in a stylish modern setting at Le Tajine. Shareable fare is on offer, from the meaty briwats of minced and seasoned beef that are stuffed into phyllo dough and fried—look for a lovely sweet finish from a just right slash of honey. There may be a fish tajine of the day, which gets you a juicy take on salmon for one recent visit. Or go for the lamb tajine, which has a raisin component that makes for a combination that includes spice, sweet heat, and downright delectableness, thumbs up. M’rouzia lamb gets a tasty turn as after a marinade of kicky ras el hanout; the final dish arrives garnished with almonds, honey, raisins--we see an ingredient theme here, too--and piquant onions. The winning protein platter? The Colonial, which combines Merguez kebabs, kefta (ground and seasoned beef), lamb and chicken. There are ample couscous and salad options from adventurous to tried and true and you may just barely remember that this space once housed an English tea spot. 663 Laurel St., San Carlos; (650) 622-9830.

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