In this stressful, challenging time, I scroll social media for glimpses of good news: chefs donating food to hospital workers, folks grocery-shopping for elderly neighbors, and everyday people trying to help lighten the mood with cheery videos and haikus.
I couldn’t be more thankful for the incredible recognition. I share it with the talented team whom I had the privilege to work with to make this book a reality: photographer Eva Kolenko, Clair Mack at Rule & Level Studio, Figure 1, and of course, all the chefs and restaurateurs who participated.
I salute you all with a virtual toast — as well as this easy, addictive recipe from the book to enjoy. After all, times like these when we limit trips to the grocery store, call for dishes that come together with few ingredients.
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.
On a warm night, the outside patio is an especially inviting spot with its lounge-y loveseats and chairs, done up with plentiful pillows.
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.
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.
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.
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.