Name: JOYA Restaurant & Lounge
Address: 339 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Phone: (650) 853-9800
Web site: JoyaRestaurant.com
Date & Time visited: Saturday, December 13, 2008, 7:00 PM
Guests: Jennifer and me
What we had: All tapas. Started with guacamole and new world chips (potato, banana, other root vegetables) and marinated olives. Jen had a glass of Marqués de Riscal Tempranillo and I tried a Cucumber Cosmo. She loved the wine, I thought my drink was interesting but probably wouldn't order it again.
Next we had: boquerone anchovy & queso fresco crostini; wild mushroom empanadas with lime scallion crema; croquetas with potatoes, passilla peppers, butternut squash and jalapeno fondue; and sizzling camarones al ajillo. Everything was, without exception, excellent. The anchovy crostini, we agreed, was the best of the lot, even though there was a slice of tomato between the queso fresco and the crostini--and we both usually don't like tomato--it worked perfectly. The croquetas were probably the weakest of the four but still had good flavor; I couldn't taste the jalapeno fondue even after dipping the croqueta again. I usually don't like mushrooms but I tried one of the empanadas with the lime-scallion crema, and quite enjoyed it. The camarones (shrimp) were served with an ajillo pepper sauce that, as Jen said, "they could serve this sauce with cardboard and it would be great." They were also served with heads, though not attached, and I'm not sure but I suspect I was supposed to eat them--I did not.
For dessert, we shared an order of churros with ibarra hot chocolate and an ice cream trio. The churros were obviously freshly made and softer than we were used to, but very good. The ibarra chocolate sauce was wonderful and reminded me somewhat of the Chantico chocolate drink formerly sold at Starbucks. The ice cream trio included house-made chocolate, vanilla and caramel ice creams with chipotle caramel and a side of caramelized spicy walnuts; all three ice cream flavors were excellent, especially the chocolate (to me) and the vanilla (to Jen).
Service: Very good, despite a couple of missteps; the pork empanadas were served instead of the mushroom, and the trio of sorbet instead of the ice cream. Both times the server apologized and quickly brought the correct item. He did come back more than once to check on us, and the bus staff kept our water glasses full.
Would we go back: Yes. I was actually a tiny bit disappointed that were seated immediately even without a reservation--because I'd wanted to check out the lounge. Next time.