Since the economic downturn in 2008, several restaurants disappeared from Cupertino. By contrast, Alexander's Steakhouse not only stayed strong but expanded. The restaurant chain opened its Palo Alto franchise last week.
The new restaurant, named The Sea, will feature seafood to avoid competing with the steakhouse, given only about 13 miles between Palo Alto and Cupertino.
Established in 2005, Alexander's also has a steakhouse in San Francisco since 2010. The Michelin-starred restaurant chain manages to make a profit despite the slow economy. The Cupertino restaurant is busy every day, and the San Francisco restaurant is always crowded at cocktail hour, according to Josh Rousseu, vice president of Alexander's.
Rousseu said Alexander's knows how to cater to different demographics. Its Cupertino restaurant promotes prime ribs and baked potatoes for the family-oriented town while its San Francisco restaurant outshines competitors with a cocktail program that perfectly matches the urban lifestyle of the city.
The chain researched the Palo Alto market as well. Rousseu said, "A Michelin-starred seafood restaurant like The Sea is just what Palo Alto needs."
Rousseu explained that there are other Michelin-starred restaurants in Palo Alto, but they are small, so The Sea is now the largest one, with a full bar and lounge area where Alexander's cocktail program will take place.
The Sea is at the very location Trader Vic's left but has completely remodeled the site attached to Dinah's Garden Hotel at 4261 El Camino Real. The new restaurant looks less exotic but more upscale, furnished with white tablecloths and wood-framed white leather chairs, decorated with pots of white orchids.
Chef Yumin Lin was a sushi chef for 10 years in Taiwan and two years in Japan before working for the Michelin-starred Providence Seafood Restaurant in Los Angeles as chef de cuisine for seven years.
Lin said he is familiar with Japanese and French cuisines, so he is going for a French, Japanese and California fusion at The Sea, which focuses on seafood but also offers beef (including the same kind of Wagyu beef served at Alexander's steakhouses), veal and duck.
The current menu of The Sea includes caviar for $75 (farmed) or $115 (wild caught) per 15 grams. Other appetizers range between $12 and $21. Entrees go from the $36 poached wild Alaskan halibut to the $62 butter poached wild Canadian lobster.
Rousseu estimates the average meal including drinks at The Sea to cost about $80 per person, versus $103 per person at Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. He said, "Beef is more expensive than most seafood."
Since Alexander's Steakhouse has been recession-proof, Rousseu speaks confidently of The Sea's prospect.
"Even though the economy is slow, there are still Lexus dealerships; there are still Ferrari dealerships," said Rousseu. "There are still people who can afford to treat themselves nicely, especially here in the Bay Area, and this is where they get a real treat."
"Good restaurants are in for a memorable experience," he added. "Successful restaurants are in for an unforgettable experience in a positive way. That's our key to success."