It couldn’t have been a more delightful belated birthday celebration than what we had last Sunday, for my son John’s 50th. Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine in Menlo Park, CA did not disappoint. A fancy restaurant with flashy décor inside and a large balcony seating facing the railroad and train depot, Farmhouse enjoys the ambience of industrial hubbub, and yet the comfortable elegance of an upscale establishment. The choo-choos and chug-chugs from passing trains pepped the characteristic charm of the place.
And of course, the cuisine was exquisite. The flavors were intensely gratifying. The artistic presentation did whet the appetite. When items on the menu are all so enticing, choosing is never easy. Such was the case at that dinner. But we had to pick, and we made the right choices.
(Photos by John S. Jacob)
Lobster Pad Thai
Yellow curry with pork belly
White and blue jasmine rice
Beef 24 hour noodle soup
For starters, we ordered ahi tuna on top of cucumbers with seaweeds. The combination, edged with a tangy hint from strings of seaweeds, was most savory. We also had basil bomb, a spectacular array of seafood (scallops, shrimps, clams, calamari, mussels), with crispy and minced pork, and on the side, a fried egg on top of blue rice. A culinary feat, based on the way we devoured those appetizers.
My grandson Eliott was curious about the 24-hour cooked noodles with beef. So we ordered it, and so glad we did. The unanimous opinion was that it was the best soup we ever had. It must have been the braised beef that merged perfectly with the noodles and absorbed in the broth that gave the distinct taste. We learned, however, that the 24 hours used for cooking was for the bone in beef short rib. We all craved for more, but the bowl-full was just right for equal portions for all six of us.
Ah, the birthday boy wanted lobsters, so we ordered the lobster pad Thai, a colorful arrangement of shells, noodles, crispy wantons and bean sprouts on a platter. The catching visual was matched with the relish of thick lobster meat in between richly flavored strands of pasta with chive, shallot and peanuts. The challenge about eating lobster is breaking the hard shell. But John did a good job of fleshing out the seafood. Craig did some of that cracking, too, and generously offered us the bounty of his labor. When everything was gone from the plate, some of us were still gingerly pulling out lobster meat from little biceps or shell cloisters – definitely part of the fun of a lobster chow down.
Then there was the tender pork belly swimming in thick curry – oh so heavenly! Bits of pork saturated in curry melted in the mouth. The curry sauce, mildly spiced, poured over white or blue jasmine rice made a dish of its own that could stand alone sans meat or vegetables. And let me talk about the blue rice – first glance, that blue rice looked strange. What made it blue, we all wondered. Indigo food dye maybe? But it was delicious, so we ordered more, strange-looking or not.
The desserts were just as smashing as the entrees. And quite enjoyable was the Farmhouse crew’s birthday greeting for John, after a good-sized decorated bowl of ice cream was placed in front of him. Boisterous chants timed with drum beats peaked to a loud synchronized shout. Even the passing chug of a train could not drown out this lively happy greeting.
John, Natasha, Eliott, Shirley, Craig and I would certainly want a repeat of that sumptuous adventure of a non-traditional, out of the ordinary Thai gourmet experience.