A native of Paris, Executive Chef Christian Nam-Hee sharpened his knife skills and his palate at l'Ecole de Paris des Métiers de la Table. Today he lets his know-how blossom and wander in the kitchen of Bijou Restaurant & Bar, blending the culinary traditions of his homeland with the flavors found in northern California's seasonal organic ingredients. From his pans and cutting boards spring forth sweet-potato frites, quail stuffed with napa cabbage, and other dishes that embody the menu's inventive fusion spirit. To complement such an aesthetically poignant dining experience, the space itself—designed by DesignPlus's Pia Thomas—remains sleek and focused. The centerpiece is the bar, which glows a dreamy, iridescent amber that's complemented by ring chandeliers and absorbed by Italian leather chairs, a lounge area's plush velvet cushions, and tabletop black holes.
European, Southeast Asian, and American culinary traditions all influence the unique fusion recipes at Vo's Restaurant. Vegetables and rice get simmered in traditional clay pots and prawns and lemongrass are seared in woks; there's even a deep-fried catfish filet with ginger-infused nouc mam, a dip made from fish sauce. The dining room is as colorful as the dishes, featuring warm red walls, bamboo sprouting from tall vases, romantic lighting overhead.
Amid a casual environment with warmly colored walls decorated in contemporary paintings and bamboo-framed mirrors, Vanessa's Bistro 2 features lunch and dinner menus consisting of French-inspired Vietnamese cuisine. Choose from house favorites like the maple leaf duck confit lettuce wrap ($9), and the tuna and salmon poke with ginger ($9), or express your gourmand gallantry by ordering the spicy coconut curry chicken ($15), served with a medley of potatoes, carrots, bell peppers and mushrooms. Vanessa's Bistro 2 also boasts extensive cocktail and wine lists.
The two chefs at Cypress rely on more than following great recipes when crafting their fine French foods. They meticulously prepare every batch of béarnaise sauce and pot of coq au vin using sustainable, organic California ingredients as often as they can. They also take pride in their artful, festive presentation, serving their dishes tableside style on gueridons whenever possible and Cirque du Soleil style when they remember to bring their leotards. Servers, meanwhile, toss salads, sizzle up new york steaks with brandy, and ignite strawberry flambés.
Formerly La Rose Bistro on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, La Sen Bistro opened its doors in November. Split between reds and whites sourced from Californian and French vineyards, its wine list reflects the California-French cuisine emerging from the kitchen. Chefs coat duck breast in a honey-pepper sauce and craft a traditional French onion soup with garlic croutons and broiled ementale cheese. They also douse salmon in saffron sauce, pair garlic pommes frites with a ribeye steak, and adorn a vegetarian pizza in goat cheese and ratatouille, a tastier alternative to vegetarian pizzas topped with topiaries.
Zazou's simple but powerful selection of café fare includes savory eats and fresh sweets. Stumble out of an ear-buzzing alarm-clock stupor with an Italian dark-roast or an organic, fair-trade medium-roast coffee before diving into a classic Nutella, chocolate, and banana crêpe ($6) or a hearty vegetarian crêpe stuffed with roasted red pepper, tomato, pesto, and monterey jack ($6.95). The hot pressed sandwiches see that cuts of pastrami, ham, turkey, or grilled chicken are lovingly squished between ciabatta or baguette halves with grandmotherly intensity, after receiving a number of pinches on the cheek and savory fillings, such as roasted red pepper, pesto, and swiss cheese ($7.50¬–$7.75). The meal-worthy Lebanese salad woos ravenous leaf-loving appetites with organic mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, and kalamata olives topped with feta cheese and pomegranate dressing ($7.25). Zazou’s also features a fresh soup du jour, with past offerings that include North African lentil ($3.50 for cup, $5 for bowl).
La Bohème's chefs handcraft each meal using seasonal, local ingredients from organic farms, which fill the earth-toned restaurant with delicate aromas and contented sighs. The Paris-inspired café and full patisserie puts new pirouettes on classic dishes on a dinner menu that brims with dishes including the Assiette de la Marée, a grouping of six local oysters with a tangy mignonette sauce ($12). La Bohème's lobster bisque ($8) flaunts oceanic power as impressive as Poseidon's water wings, and diners delve deeply into a glass of Tangent sauvignon blanc ($9). Joyful teeth sink into the tenderness of the Jarret de Veau et Son Gratin, a cutlet of veal osso buco nestled up to delicate au gratin potatoes and ratatouille ($27). The more delicate lunch menu parades the Fisherman salad ($12), gleefully thrown fistfuls of Norwegian smoked salmon, roasted pepper, and dill dressing scattered across an adoring mass of veggies. Crêpes crowned with cherry compote, ice cream, and Nutella drop sweet curtains over filling events.