Chef Tammy Huynh has had a long, storied legacy in the restaurant industry. Her parents opened Vung Tau in downtown San Jose in 1985, one of the pioneering authentic Vietnamese restaurants in the region. In 2002, Huynh followed in her family’s footsteps to open the contemporary Tamarine in downtown Palo Alto.
Now, at the other end of Palo Alto’s University Avenue, she’s opened up Tam Tam Restaurant, a more casual, more regionally focused establishment.
It’s still a family affair with Huynh opening up her latest restaurant with her sister Tanya Huynh Hartley. Huynh’s son Kevin Phan is the general manager.
I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, which opened in mid-September not far from the CalTrain station.
A large bar makes up the back of the dining room, making a popular spot for solo diners and couples to plop down for a quick bite after work. The dining room is decorated with paintings by Vietnamese artists to add a splash of color.
This summer, when timing necessitated postponing my birthday dinner at Michelin three-starred Manresa to two months later, my husband asked me where I wanted to go instead on my actual birthday weekend. I immediately knew the spot.
It was another Michelin-recognized establishment.
One where the food would be equally unforgettable and fill me with similar contentment.
And where my husband would be especially thrilled because it turned out to be the least expensive birthday dinner he’d ever bought me.
Though she had never opened a restaurant before, Pakistani-born Zareen Khan decided to do just that when she opened the original fast-casual Zareen’s in Mountain View on 2014. It proved such a hit that two years later, she opened a second, larger Zareen’s on California Avenue in Palo Alto, which is the one we frequent. In 2020, look for a third and larger location to open in downtown Redwood City.
Tech workers who get all the free food they want on their campuses gladly flock to Zareen’s to stand in line and, yes, pay their own money, for her incredible contemporary Pakistani-Indian food. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have dined here. And Chef Anthony Secviar and Master Sommelier Dennis Kelly, the team behind Michelin-starred Protege in Palo Alto across the street from Zareen’s, have made no secret about being so addicted to Zareen’s chicken tikka masala that they eat it weekly.
The upscale seafood-focused restaurant with the chic, Tiffany-like blue dining room can be a spendy experience, often more suited to a special occasion or a business account meal.
But on Sunday nights from now through Sept. 1, the restaurant is featuring a chef’s choice sushi platter for a reasonable $35 per person. Recently, I had a chance to try the new sushi special when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.
Sunday evenings are definitely a quieter time for the restaurant. Only a few people nursed drinks at the bar, while in the dining room, a few tables definitely seemed like they were celebrating a noteworthy moment.
The swank bar.
The seafood theme carries over into the decor.
We left ourselves in the hands of the kitchen and Executive Chef Yu Min Lin, who created a truncated tasting menu for us with the sushi platter included.
Your usual sandwich probably is nothing like this eel one at Bird Dog.
Bird Dog has been a hot ticket ever since it opened in downtown Palo Alto in 2015.
In April, it added lunch service, which is a much easier way to snag a table at the ever-popular restaurant run by Chef-Partner Robbie Wilson, and his wife, Managing Partner Emily Perry Wilson.
If you’re used to mindlessly grabbing a giant burrito or burger on the run, this is decidedly a more leisurely type of lunch that begs you to take time to really enjoy and marvel. That’s because Chef Wilson, who has worked previously at the French Laundry in Yountville, Craft in New York, and Maison Troisgros in France, creates food that is not only delightful but inspired. And when’s the last time you felt that way about lunch?