Monday, June 7, 2010
DINNER AT VANESSA'S BISTRO 2 IN WALNUT CREEK
Walnut Creek is rapidly becoming the East Bay/Contra Costa center for Asian/Fusion restaurants. It seems that a new place opens just about every other day.
While I exaggerate a bit, I personally think it is getting a bit overdone...more so than Italian did a few years back.
Jim and I already have our favorites, but are always willing to give the newcomers a try. We've been to Elevé which we enjoyed but, because we were one of the very few customers in there the night we dined, we've not been back...I always am uncomfortable when I see more servers than customers and, while it may be unfounded, tend to think the ingredients can't be the freshest if they are only serving a few customers on a given evening.
The other night, we were in the mood for Vietnamese food after a movie in Walnut Creek. We already love elegant, but comfortable Le Cheval and the more modest Da Lat. But I proposed that we try somewhere new.
We chose Vanessa's Bistro 2, a Vietnamese French place that has been open for a few months. Vanessa's may be new to Walnut Creek, but not to the San Francisco Bay Area. Chef Vanessa Dang has had a Berkeley restaurant for three years and, with her children, decided to expand to Walnut Creek. Her son Michael Nguyen owns the Walnut Creek restaurabt.
Vanessa's occupies a space that previously was a Japanese restaurant. It has a long busy bar, where you can eat also, and several tables in the main dining room where you enter. There is another dining room off the back of the main room. The decor is simple but stylish. I liked the ambiance immediately.
The restaurant describes its menu as "Vietnamese Tapas with a French Twist."
Right off Jim questioned having Tapas in an Asian restaurant, saying that Tapas are Spanish. I calmed him down, with an explanation that, these days, small plates are being called "tapas" regardless of the cuisine.
To my surprise, the menu is not all tapas; there are several full-sized entrées. This being our first time here, I asked if the larger dishes could be shared, as I frequently do in Asian restaurants. Our server assured us that all dishes are able to be shared.
We decided on two Small Plates (Tapas) from about 20 choices and one entrée-sized Seafood dish.
Our Tapa selections were Crispy Saigon Chicken Rolls
and Panko Crusted Fish Tacos.
The Chicken Rolls were served in a bowl with lettuce leaves and shredded carrot, mint, and daikon. Our server told us to wrap a roll in a lettuce leaf with the vegetables and dip it in Nuoc Mam Cham sauce that accompanied them.
The Fish Tacos were garnished with avocado and other tasty vegetables.
Our larger dish was Sautéed Jumbo Prawns & Day Boat Scallops with Vegetables in Thai Basil Coconut Curry.
We might have ordered more but our server told us that this would be enough. She was correct and we did not order dessert because we were more than satisfied with the amount of food we'd eaten for our meal. Another time, I have to at least save room for their Tarte Tatin, an upside-down caramelized French friut tart that I rarely pass up.
The wine list features over 50 wines by the glass and over 150 wines by the bottle. By the glass wine is offered in 2 ounce and 4 ounce servings. We both chose 4-ounce glasses of an Albarino from Spain; it was perfect with our meal.
I enjoyed every dish. The ingredients were fresh, the flavors wonderful. I'm planning to return again soon to sample more of the menu. I've been told that their Sandwiches (Rib Eye, Roasted Pork, Crab) are wonderful and there are several Small Plates that intrigue me (Green Papaya Salad with Poached Prawns, Maple Leaf Duck Confit Lettuce Wrap, Salt & Pepper Calamari, Shaking Beef,to name a few). Jim, on the other hand, liked what he ate, but likes our "regular places" better.