Mountain View Voice “Best of” 2013 Ballot

Mountain View Voice is once again doing their yearly “Best of” 2013 survey of local businesses powered by the people of Mountain View. The Voice is a community newspaper published every Friday and available inside few of the local Mountain View businesses. Also online here:

The “Best of” 2013 voting page is located here: and all votes need to be submitted by July 7, 2013.

This ballot sparked an internal review of the places my wife and I love in Mountain View. After casting my vote I thought I should also throw it up here to help any newbies to Mountain View. Not just what place but also why so you can understand deeper why these places rock.

The Best of Mountain View, 2013

Zagat (Google’s) score

I have included  Zagat (Google’s) score for each place inc a link to their Google Profile so you can read the reviews and make up your own mind. “The ratings are on a 30-point scale, made up of ratings for defined areas including food, decor, service, and cost. (30 is the highest rating on the scale and 1 is the lowest)” wiki

Using the categories featured in The Voice Ballot, here are my favorite in no particular order. Note that most of these places are on Castro Street or in one of the side streets from Castro Street. Castro Street is basically downtown Mountain View.


Address: 201 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: Saturday hours 8:00 am–11:00 pm Google Plus / Zagat 21/30

I blogged about Red Rock in the past on The Road to Silicon Valley. 3 years later and I am still a regular at Red Rock. In my opinion, this is the best place for coffee. From great service to the quality & consistency in coffee and immediately drinkable. Think about that one for a second. How many coffee places can you think of which serve coffee that is immediately drinkable? A good coffee is part beans (materials) and part preparation. Most places over heat during preparation thus killing the taste. Red Rock always makes it perfectly good and ready to drink without burning your tongue.


Address: 938 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: Saturday hours 5:30 pm–9:30 pm Google Plus / Zagat 24/30

Fine dining at it’s best and it has 1 Michelin star on it’s shoulders. Serves French and California cuisine in a converted Victorian house. The restaurant is laid out across multiple rooms inside the converted Victorian house giving it a very posh feel. The food is outstanding. We had their 7 coarse meal with wine pairing and walked away with our bellies full. Well satisfied with the service, quality & presentation of the food. But expect to pay a bit ($500-$700 for 2) for such fine dining.


Address: 174 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: Saturday hours 12:00 pm–3:30 pm, 4:30 pm–10:30 pm Google Plus / Zagat 22/30

My favorite Thai place. Also the only place where I get the same meal over and over and over again because it is outstanding and consistent in taste. Sweet & sour chicken with white rice. There aren’t many Thai places which make this meal as consistent and good tasting as Amarin Thai. For take away / “to go”, the meals are prepared really fast (under 10 mins) and they wont break your piggy bank at $10 to $15 per meal.


Address: 1051 E Main St, Tustin, CA 92780
Hours: For lunch and dinner after 5pm except Sunday Google Plus / Zagat 21/30

Every since being introduced to this place 4 years ago I have been hooked. The sushi is outstanding. I mean outstanding. If you are a fan of sushi you will know what good fresh quality sushi tastes like. This place has it. And their popularity for good sushi is seen when you go and dine in. The lines of people outside are a dead give away of the high demand. This is the place for sushi in Mountain View at a very good price. I am a fan of their dinner combination special – teriyaki salmon, salad, sashimi (salmon & tuna), rice and miso soup all for $18.


Address: 180 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: Lunch & Dinner weekdays and most hours on Weekends Google Plus / Zagat 20/30

If you are after a light dinner meal for a reasonable price (around $20 per head) which is also healthy then this is the place for you. Order the Koby lean beef plate which comes with a side of greens. You basically cook it all yourself in a hot-pot. Tastes great and is also a great experience. No reservations so get there early so you can get a table without waiting. Otherwise this place fills up pretty fast.

BEST GYM – 24 Hour Fitness Super Sport

Address: 2535 California Street Mountain View, CA 94040
Hours: 24 hours 7 days a week

This is nearly identical to Fitness First in Australia but much larger with more amenities. I think this may be where the idea for Fitness First came from 😉 As the name suggest this is a 24 hour gym. So you can go there anytime. I have trained as late as 2am before and it’s pretty damn quiet. This gym is usually packed before 8pm with a sweet time being 9pm (if you code you know this time is ok). After a good workout there is a pool, steam room, sauna and spa available to relax in. I find the steam room to be great after a good weights session. The only down side is that the steam room turns off after midnight.


Address: 2235 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, CA 94043
Hours: 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday only Google Plus / Zagat 28/30

This is the BEST car shop I have ever had the pleasure dealing with. Most car mechanics are known for ripping customers off with phony car issues especially when a woman brings the car. Gary & Chris (owners) are the exception and are superb lads! I am comfortable sending my wife with the car to get it serviced there knowing she will be looked after and not ripped off. Everything is explained to detail so you know what needs fixing or servicing. The communication & trust here is the key to an amazing customer service from The Car Doctor.


Address: 241B Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: 11am to 11pm 7 days a week
Google Plus / Zagat 21/30

I am addicted to this place. Their Gelatos are simply outstanding! My favorite is Tiramisu and it even has small bread/biscuits inside it. From the warm “welcome” of the owner to the yummy Gelatos, this is the place for Ice Cream in Mountain View. Actually I am yet to find a better ice cream shop outside Mountain View. The lines in the evening can get overwhelming spilling outside the shop down to the businesses next door. Sometimes the wait can be as long as 30 minutes but it is damn worth it! Get the medium size cup coz the small is not enough and you will be left wanting more!

BEST PIZZA – Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria

Address: 790 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: 11am to 10pm Weekdays and till 11pm Weekends Google Plus / Zagat 21/30

I have been having a damn hard time finding a great pizza place in Silicon Valley. Most places suck when compared to the many great pizza places in Sydney, Australia. What is going on?? Tell me if you have found a kickass pizza place in the valley. Now Amici’s is the best in Mountain View. Their thin crust pizzas are easy on the belly (no dough to bloat you up) and tastes great, especially their Amici’s Combo (my fav). Price ($30 for large) is a tad above what I’d like to pay but ok to pay every now and then.

BEST BOOKSTORE – East-West Bookshop

Address: 324 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Hours: 11am to 10pm Weekdays and till 11pm/8pm Weekends Google Plus / Zagat 22/30

This is a place of Zen. From the vast array of books on topics of the mind to self-help to meditation to yoga to meditation bowls (metal & crystal). This place will make you feel at peace. If I ever need to calm my mind down I walk into this shop and the good energy here works wonders. There is also a large man-made water feature where you can sit in front and read a book. Every week you will also find all sort of spiritual folks running events in the back room.

Some fun inside East-West Bookshop with the Meditation Bowl

MongoDB office hours in Mountain View

You may recall my previous post on MongoDB and how powerful it is as an alternative to a relational database. Since then I’ve had a bunch of discussions with other software engineers around this space and even met up with MongoDB core engineer Chris Westin from 10gen at Red Rock to gain further insights into MongoDB.

MongoDB Leaf

New kick ass GUI for MongoDB

Chris introduced me JMongoBrowser written by Antoine Girbal (10gen engineer). It’s written in Java so you can run it on Linux, Windows and Mac OSX. So far this GUI has proven to be a success and fills the holes where MongoHub couldn’t. Out goes MongoHub and in goes JMongoBrowser.

JMongoBrowser - MongoDB GUI admin tool.

Fast crash recovery using Journaling

MongoDB uses memory 1st to write data to vs directly to file/store. This is where huge performance gains are attained. It also has Journaling, a write-ahead for operations to facilitate fast crash recovery in the storage engine. This means the stuff in memory is stored in a log incase your server goes down without affecting MongoDB’s performance.

So what happens if your box goes down? .. a common question amongst new engineers to MongoDB. Does this data also gets lost? The answer lays somewhere in between how you balance your performance needs against the risks you are willing to take with your data.

The journal is synced to disk every 100ms. So the maximum that can be lost is up to 100ms worth of changes. At the cost of additional performance degradation, you can make your application proof against even that.  The j option to getLastCommand will cause the application to block until the journal entries with the last change have been written to disk.  See .  Of course, if you use this, your call to getLastCommand can wait up to 100ms, depending on where in the flush cycle you are. Therefore, this is left up to the user to change this default of 100ms.

Therefore, always load MongoDB with Journaling enabled, like this:

mongod --journal

This also auto cleans up crashes and puts crashed data back into MongoDB.

Don’t be alarmed when you see this

I found this in the /Journal (1GB files):

-rw------- 1 root root 1.0G 2011-06-23 02:26 prealloc.0
-rw------- 1 root root 1.0G 2011-06-23 02:25 prealloc.1
-rw------- 1 root root 1.0G 2011-06-23 02:26 prealloc.2

With Journaling enabled the server always creates those three 1GB files.  It rotates through them, recycling them.  They won’t grow any more.  But they are always that size, regardless of the size of your database. If the server dies unexpectedly, the files remain, and contain the material necessary for the automated recovery that happens when you restart the server.

More here:

Checking server memory usage

As mentioned above, Memory is used by Mongo to speed things up. The more memory you have the better and MongoDB will use your RAM as it sees need for it taking into consideration other server resources.

It’s always a good practice to check memory usage.
Details here:

Your MongoDB configuration file

Here’s a recommend set of switches to have enabled in your mongodb.conf.

sudo nano /etc/mongodb.conf

add or update your settings to these:

  • journal = as discussed above to enable fast recovery from crashes.
  • directoryperdb = creates a new physical directory for each new database. Clean way to seperate your databases.
  • logappend = Whether the log file will be appended or over-written. Always have true else after a reboot your old logs will be overwritten and you may lose important crash specific data.

More detail here:

MySQL to MongoDB

Finally, I found this fantastic chart illustrating the difference in commands between MySQL and MongoDB. Should help the transition for us MySQL folks. Click the image below to download a large PDF version (Size: 213Kb).

There is also mapping chart SQL to Mongo located on the MongoDB website here.

Have more questions? Attend the weekly MongoDB Office Hours in Mountain View Red Rock or post a question/comment below.

~ Ernest

Things to do in Silicon Valley + San Francisco

Things To Do in Silicon Valley, The Bay Area & in San Francisco.

So you decided to visit Silicon Valley and/or San Francisco and want to know where to go. Here is a hand full of places in Silicon Valley and San Francisco you can visit during your stay. Of course there is plenty more to do and see then what’s listed below, but this should be a good start for you. Don’t forget to read public transport options so you know how to get around Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

Things To Do in Silicon Valley (south bay)

Silicon Valley is suburbia, sprinkled like candy with many high-tech firm and great places to eat. It is nothing what you expect and must be experienced to be enjoyed.

University Avenue & Stanford University, Downtown Palo Alto
You can’t go wrong here. There are plenty of great restaurants to eat at, shops to explore and Stanford University is just round the corner (across El Camino Real).

Stanford University is enormous. There are plenty of free shuttle buses from Palo Alto CalTrain (on University Ave) which can take you directly to and around Stanford University. The University is beautifully located on a large piece of land surrounded by trees, grass lands and mountains. You can freely walk through the grounds and enjoy the Spanish-colonial style building architecture. Drop by the library and the gift shop if you want to get yourself some merchandise.

The road leading out of Stanford University is called University Avenue and heads directly into Palo Alto downtown. Downtown is full of great restaurants and shops.

Some of my favorites places to eat there:

  • Cheese Cake Factory – largest menu of choices you will ever see. And their cheese cake’s are like no other. Simply delicious.
  • La Strada Ristorante Italiano – nice little Italian place with great Seafood Marinara and delicious thin crust Pizzas.
  • Zibibbo – outstanding food & presentation and they know how to match the wine to your meal. They are a part of a larger group called Restaurant LuLu. Their San Francisco LuLu Restaurant is just as superb.

Castro Street, Downtown Mountain View
This is my home town and also another great place for dining and mixing with the locals.

Downtown Mountain View, Castro Street – one of the things to do in Silicon Valley
  • Red Rock Cafe – if you want to feel experience a hackers atmosphere then this is the place to be any evening during the week. Grab an Avalanche (a better version of Starbucks Frappuccino), connect to the free wi-fi on your laptop and absorb the energy in the room. You will no doubt also find me there. Check out my post on Red Rock here.
  • East West Bookstore – known as a spiritual bookstore, it is the source for expansive ideas, a retreat from ordinary life, and a gathering place in support of community ideals and spiritual growth. It was founded by a monk by the name of Swami Kriyananda who is the author of over 100 books and the composer of over 400 pieces of music. If you are into spiritualism then you will find this place valuable + it’s across the road from Red Rock.

Some of my favorites places to eat at Castro Street:

  • Gelato Classico Italian Ice Cream – you won’t look at another ice cream again after having some of these. Try the Tiramisu Gelato, there is something super tasty about it.
  • Tomi Sushi – this place is a must for dinner. The sushi here melts in your mouth, it’s reasonably priced ($16 dinner combination) and the atmosphere & setup is authentic Japanese. including the chefs.

Santana Row
Santana Row is an upscale shopping, housing, dining and entertainment complex in San Jose, California. Westfield Valley Fair is located just to its north, on the other side of Stevens Creek Boulevard, and the Winchester Mystery House just to the west, across Winchester Boulevard.

High-tech companies to drop by for a picture

  • Googleplex – a must! Located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View. You will see plenty of Google bikes around which the Googlers use to move around between the campuses. Something is always buzzing around here. From the T-rex in the courtyard, outside swimming pool to the university style feel atmosphere.
  • If you venture a tad down the road you will come across the Android complex with the large statue of the Android robot next to a cupcake and around the corner Mozilla & LinkedIn Corporations. If you run into some sheep don’t worry, they are working for Google eating cutting down the grass.
  • HP (Hewlett-Packard) & Symantec – because they are right next to each other on Ellis St in Mountain View and the HP founders are famous for having kick started what is known today as the Silicon Valley.
  • While you’re in Mountain View, check out the other tech companies located in Mountain View. There are plenty here!
  • Facebook is located on 1601 S California Ave, Palo Alto. Although there is not much to see from the outside. See my post on Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol (OGP) where I have included a picture of the building. Again not much to see but if you have it on your to-do list then why not.
Me at Googleplex for lunch – a must on the things to do in Silicon Valley

For more high-tech companies in Silicon Valley mapped out on a nice map of the bay area, check out my blog post located here.

Attend a Meetup
If you have the time try to go to one of the popular meetup groups. There is always a buzz in the air, plenty of energy and interesting people to connect with + score a free pizza & coke. Read my prior blog post on which meetups to attend.

Recapping the popular meetups:

  • Hacker Dojo: Located around the corner from my place (in Mountain View) is a place for hackers to hang out and code. Also the home of Android weekly developer meetings and monthly presentations from cloud companies et al.
  • Googleplex: Hosting Silicon Valley Google Technology Users offers members who develop applications using Google technology to connect and present their projects.
  • Yahoo’s LAMP meetup hosted every month to share Yahoo’s engineering efforts and provide an environment to learn.
  • Stanford Bases: Stanford University’s entrepreneurship group is one of the largest student entrepreneurship groups in the world dedicated to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond.
  • The Silicon Valley NewTech Meetup Group [SVNewTech] – always fills up in minutes once the reservations open with over 200 people attending each month.
  • The Silicon Valley iOS Developers’ Meetup – another one which fills up with over 100 people attending each month.
Things to do in Silicon Valley on a Google Map

Things To Do in San Francisco (the city)

San Fransisco is a city of micro climates. You can notice the difference as you drive up 101 or 280 and the weather changes from a beautiful sunny day to overcast & cloudy. So check the weather online before setting off on you trip from the valley into the city.

Lombart Street & Zig Zag Street
Lombart Street is famous for having steep hills. The Russian Hill part of Lombart Street intersecting with Van Ness Ave is the start of the most steepest hill in San Francisco. It must be driven up to be experienced. As you drive look back for a second to get a glimpse of the street’s sharp inclination.

Once you reach the top, you will be greeted by the most famous “Crookedest Street in the World.” with a 40-degree slope and tight hairpin turns. It is lined with houses and beautifully manicured gardens. It’s worth walking and driving down it.

San Francisco – Lombart Street at night

Fisherman’s Wharf
It is the northern waterfront area of San Francisco and a famous tourist location. It is best known for being the location of Pier 39 & it’s blubbery sea lions, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, Forbes Island and restaurants and stands that serve fresh seafood, most notably Dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. It is also the place where you can organize a trip to Alcatraz (ref The Rock movie with Sean Connery) – which is clearly seen from Pier 39.

Cobb’s Comedy Club
My favourite comedy club! Headliners who performed at Cobb’s Comedy Club are regular guests on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. Many have their own comedy specials on Comedy Central and HBO and can be seen starring in movies and on television.
More here:

Samovar Tea Lounge
Fanastic place to start your day with a nice selection of teas. There are 3 unique locations: Samovar Yerba Buena Gardens, Samovar Mission-Castro, and Samovar Hayes. Yerba Buena Gardens is my favorite for it’s atmosphere and unique location.


  • LuLu Restaurant – great service, reasonably priced food and always fresh and tasty.
  • One Market Restaurant – awarded a Michelin Star for its excellence. If you have extra cash laying around this place is worth a visit.
  • Burger Bar – never disappoints, if all you want is a burger. Try the Kobe Beef Burger – it comes from Wagyu cow and the Kobe beef is rich, tender and juicy and cannot be matched by any other beef.


  • Vessel – located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square district, Vessel represents a luxurious lounge of signature San Francisco style and elegance.
  • RubySkye – another club located in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square district in the famed theatre district, Ruby Skye is San Francisco’s premiere Nightclub and Special Event Venue.
San Francisco – Golden Gate Bridge. North of SIlicon Valley.

More Things to do in Silicon Valley?

This should keep you busy during your visit. There are also great posts by the Y Combinator team on things to do while you’re in Silicon Valley here:

Startup School – Things to do (other than Startup School)

Paul Graham – Where to See Silicon Valley

Steve Blanks – A Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley

If you know / have heard of other cool places please share it with the rest of the readers here by placing it into the comments section below.

Happy exploring!

Other related posts of value:

Public Transport in Silicon Valley

Major roads in Silicon Valley

Red Rock – hackers hangout


Red Rock Coffee – a place for hackers & coffee

Having visited many cafe’s in Mountain View and surrounding suburbs, Red Rock is by far the best cafe / hang out / study / hacking joint around. The atmosphere here is superb! chilled, relaxed, and filled with plenty of smart people either studying, meeting up or hacking code.

It’s a 2 store cafe. 1st floor is the cafe and sometimes where live music is played. 2nd floor is where people chill, the hang out area. Where it’s all happening. Most days it is filled with plenty of guys and gals on their laptops connected to the world-wide web while soft chilled music plays. The room has plenty of windows so natural light can flow in and naturally bath the room with light. Being in the heart of down town Mountain View, you can always jump out for a bite to eat and come back to this relaxed atmosphere. It’s an ideal place to be when you need to detach yourself from your local dwelling (home) and chilling out in a different environment where energy levels super high.

Internet? yes it’s free.

So not only is coffee, tea and The Avalance (my favorite drink) here great but they also give you free internet & plenty of free power points to plug your laptop in and start changing the world. With WiFi, you have a choice of connecting to either Google’s WiFi or Red Rock’s AeONsafe Free, Secured WiFi.

Red Rock from Castro Street - level 2 is where the action is, level 1 is the cafe with live music
2nd floor of Red Rock where hackers hang out & local groups meet

Location of Red Rock

201 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 967-4473


Red Rock website:

Red Rock on Yelp:

If you see me at Red Rock please drop by and say hi! I love meeting and connecting with like-minded individuals. I like to look at people I don’t know yet as friends I haven’t met yet. Say g’day to this Aussie 🙂