Category Archives: Restaurants

The Splashy Ettan Opens In Palo Alto (Which You Can Hopefully Visit When Life Gets Back to Normal)

Crisp, fried sesame leaves with all the fixings -- at the new Ettan in Palo Alto.
Crisp, fried sesame leaves with all the fixings — at the new Ettan in Palo Alto.

Normally in this space, I try to tempt you with mouthwatering food photos and interesting insights into new restaurants that are worth a visit. However, these are anything but normal times.

So let me merely provide a diversion in this unprecedented time when we are all mostly stuck at home, and going a little stir crazy. It’s a reminder that when life does get back on track, we ought to help support our local restaurants and other businesses that will have a hard time getting back on their feet.

Last month, before widespread lock-down ensued, I was invited in as a guest of the just-opened Ettan, a splashy new modern Indian restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. It’s a collaboration between Ayesha Thapar, a real estate and fashion entrepreneur, and Srijith Gopinathan, executive chef of the Michelin two-starred Campton Place in San Francisco.

The soaring, three-story former Three Seasons restaurant space has been redone in striking shades of cerulean, indigo and bright white. The leaded glass domed ceiling remains a focal point, even more so with clusters of sparkly and sculptural chandeliers dangling from it. There’s more bling with the water pitchers and champagne buckets that are made of copper.

The expansive restaurant.
The expansive restaurant.
The artsy entryway.
The artsy entryway.

On a warm night, the outside patio is an especially inviting spot with its lounge-y loveseats and chairs, done up with plentiful pillows.

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Nam Vietnamese Brasserie: A Favorite Daughter Ventures Out On Her Own

Anne Le Ziblatt in the kitchen of her new Nam Vietnamese Brasserie.
Anne Le Ziblatt in the kitchen of her new Nam Vietnamese Brasserie.

When you grow up in a legendary restaurant family, it’s not surprising that you follow in the same path.

Anne Le Ziblatt’s parents opened the 12-table Vung Tau restaurant in San Jose in 1985. It was such a hit that less than two years later, it moved to a larger location nearby that now serves more than 150 diners daily. Le Ziblatt later went on to co-found and manage with her aunt, the restaurants Tamarine in Palo Alto, and the now defunct Bong Su in San Francisco. She also worked in restaurant public relations for a spell.

But one thing she hadn’t done was open her own restaurant.

Until now.

Her Nam Vietnamese Brasserie opened its cheery doors a few weeks ago in downtown Redwood City.

The signature Nam Noodle Soup.
The signature Nam Noodle Soup.

It’s a fast-casual concept, where you order at the counter, take a seat at a table, and wait for your food to be brought to you.

The dining room that has far more personality than most fast-casual concepts.
The dining room that has far more personality than most fast-casual concepts.

But Le Ziblatt prefers to call it “fine casual.” Indeed, it’s far more stylish than most other fast-casual concepts that lean more utilitarian in looks. When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, I was surprised by how lovely the decor is. It takes inspiration from the fishing village in Vietnam, where she was born. It’s done up with a fish scale-tiled floor, fishing basket ceiling lights, and colorful murals.

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Ama’s Anchovy Pork Asada

Anchovies in the marinade give this grilled pork extra oomph.
Anchovies in the marinade give this grilled pork extra oomph.

How do I love anchovies?

Let me count the ways.

I love them in Caesar salad so much that when a waiter queries if I want anchovies, I almost take the bait and ask for extra.

I think many a pizza just isn’t complete without them arrayed lavishly overtop.

I find tomato sauces just a little flat without their depth.

And I always have tins of them stocked in my pantry.

So of course when I spotted “Anchovy Pork Asada” in the new “Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen” (Chronicle Books, 2019) cookbook, of which I received a review copy, I knew I had to try making it.

The cookbook was written by Josef Centeno, chef-owner of the Centeno Group of restaurants in Los Angeles that includes Bar Ama, Baco Mercat, Orsa & Winston; and Betty Hallock, formerly deputy food editor of the Los Angeles Times.

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Trailblazer Tavern — A Fantastical Taste of Hawaii, and Beyond

Fried chicken -- Trailblazer Tavern-style.
Fried chicken — Trailblazer Tavern-style.

San Francisco’s Trailblazer Tavern — a collaboration between home-grown Chef Michael Mina, Honolulu chefs and husband-and-wife Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and Marc Benioff’s Salesforce — is full of whimsy from the get-go.

Enter through the Salesforce East building’s lobby and be greeted by a lifelike LED-projection of fish swimming overhead, giving the impression of being at an actual aquarium. There are also playful, cartoon-ish sculptures of a bear, goat, Albert Einstein, and Astro — all part of the official Salesforce Trailblazer Crew, who are meant to represent how the company blazes new trails.

That extends to the restaurant, which opened in late 2018 to serve modern, upscale Hawaiian food in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

Part of the Trailblazer Crew.
Part of the Trailblazer Crew.
So, apparently, is Einstein.
So, apparently, is Einstein.

This is not the first partnership between Mina, Ueoka, and Karr-Ueoka, The couple also opened Burger Hale inside Mina’s The Street Food Hall in Honolulu.

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Find Your Way to Tapas Tokki

Fried tofu with spicy pork and kimchi at Tapas Tokki.
Fried tofu with spicy pork and kimchi at Tapas Tokki.

You have to be in the know to find Tapas Tokki. Even then, you may be rather confounded when trying to find the location of this small, tucked-away Korean small-plates restaurant in Santa Clara.

Chef-Owner Jin Jeong says even people who do find their way, sometimes poke their head in the door apprehensively, and timidly ask, “Is this a restaurant?”

Why, yes it is. And a delightful one at that.

Not only is it located in a compact, nondescript strip mall you could easily drive by without a second glance that also houses a beauty salon, a Filipino restaurant and the Eritrean Community Center, but it’s in a spot that you might never think to venture to.

Just look for the sign to find it.
Just look for the sign to find it.

It is located in the alleyway to the side of the mall. The fact that there’s no sign with its name on it doesn’t make it any easier. But once you spot a sign with a leaping rabbit on it, you know you’ve found it.

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