Hat Yai Fried ($14) is probably the most popular dish with three pieces of Southern Thai-style fried chicken that come with a mound of rice strewn with deliciously crisp, fried onion and garlic slivers. Dusted in potato starch, the chicken, while at times cut into rather haphazard pieces, has a wonderfully crisp, airy exterior. There’s little to no seasoning on it, though, which is surprising. As a result, you may want to drizzle on the accompanying sweet chili sauce to boost the flavor. You better like sweet, though, because that’s the predominant taste of the sauce. However, you can also get a container of Sriracha to mix in to add more heat.
The BBQ Chicken ($14) was actually much more flavorful. The moist chicken tasted of rice wine, fish sauce and herbs. So much so that you really didn’t even need the accompanying sweet chili dipping sauce. It was a generous portion of chicken, too, piled over a foundation of white rice.
Chef Bikram Das couldn’t be happier to finally have the chance to show off his creative flair at Amber India in San Jose’s Santana Row.
Yes, it’s only recently that he’s been able to fully do that. Because Das had the unfortunate timing of arriving as head chef in March 2020.
Initially, he had high hopes that the restaurant would be able to succeed with food to-go.
But his optimism was dashed, when he realized that many of the apartments at the upscale retail-restaurant-housing complex were corporate-owned, and thus, largely empty during the pandemic.
However, with both indoor and outdoor dining now offered, Das is thrilled to offer an array of classic dishes, as well as contemporary ones that take inspiration from Italian and other Asian fare he’s cooked at hotels in India.
I had a chance to sample some of his handiwork, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week.
There are plenty of outdoor tables right in front of the restaurant, which provides for a great people-watching vantage point, especially with a craft cocktail in hand. Santana’s Revolver ($14) is a take on a Manhattan, a potent blend of Bulleit Rye, Tia Maria, and Angostura orange bitters for a smoky, honeyed-vanilla punch.
The place has been hopping since it debuted. So much so that the mall even turned over to the restaurant an additional outdoor dining area a few steps away that had been just extra public space before. The restaurant now opens up that seating area on weekends when it gets extra busy.
Even on weekdays, though, there’s still plenty of outdoor dining, as the 7,400-square-foot restaurant is lined with floor-to-ceiling garage doors that can be opened up entirely. The tables on the perimeter also have woven mechanized blinds that can go up entirely or be let down to shield from the sun.
That’s where I sat when I was invited in as a guest last week, enjoying a nice breeze on a balmy night. After more than a year of cooking at home or getting takeout, I’ve only dined outside at about eight places in the past two months. I will say that King’s is the only one I’ve encountered so far where not everyone on staff was masked. As of today, mask wearing indoors is only recommended, not mandated, but if you’re the very cautious type, that may be a consideration.
This is the first Northern California outpost of the Southern California restaurant chain that’s owned by King’s Seafood Company. It operates a dozen restaurant concepts in California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Owner Ajay Walia can’t help but chuckle these days when patrons — and even long-time regulars — walk past his Saffron restaurant in San Carlos, only to back-peddle in a double-take.
Like some other establishments, Walia decided to use the time during the pandemic when his 19-year-old restaurant wasn’t operating at full capacity to refresh its look.
The result is night and day. The once near-black exterior is now bright white. The interior, once much more traditional in vibe with gold and saffron-hued walls, is now as crisp and fresh looking as a starched summer shirt with white walls and banquettes, and loads of greenery. With so many of us spending time in our own backyards during lock-down, Walia says he was inspired to bring the outdoors in.
If you’re like me and still only dining outdoors at the moment, though, you’ll be glad to know that Saffron also has a few tables outside its front doors. That’s where I parked myself when I was invited to dine as a guest last week.
Walia, who also owns Michelin-starred Rasa in Burlingame, has updated Saffron’s menu, even going so far as to do away with the restaurant’s long-time buffet, to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I’d say the food’s never been better.
Few restaurants anywhere reach a 40-year milestone.
That such a momentous achievement happened during the height of the pandemic last year for Menlo Park’s Flea Street might have put a slight damper on the festivities that had to be held over Zoom.
But it’s a testament to this restaurant, whose doctrine of organic and sustainable has been woven into its fabric since the beginning, that after the unprecedented challenges of a pandemic it’s come roaring back.
When I dined there last week as a guest of the restaurant, every outdoor table was full of smiling patrons, clinking glasses of festive cocktails, and chatting with Chef-Owner Jesse Cool as the made the rounds. The indoor dining room is undergoing a refresh, complete with a new ventilation system, and should be ready to welcome back diners soon. Executive Chef Bryan Thuerk, all of 23 years old, couldn’t be happier to be cooking for diners in-person again, after months of doing takeout, which the restaurant had never done before.
The outdoor dining has the air of a celebratory backyard get-together with bales of hay topped with cushions for bar-service only, and wood-slatted fencing in the dining area.
Indulge in a cocktail by bartender Eloy Martinez, who’s been with the restaurant for more than 15 years. The Apricot & Sage is a blend of brandy, apricot, sage, Contreau, bitters and lemon juice that get garnished with a fresh apricot half and sage leaf. It’s fruity with a nice bitter edge and a touch of menthol.