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.
Francophiles will appreciate Bistro Maxine's casual approach to dining, with pretention-free lunches and carefree dinners in the flavorful form of authentic crepes, soups, salads, sandwiches, espresso drinks, cocktails, and ice cream. Those hampered by hunger will find the pièce de résistance of soft, warm crepes freshly scooped from imported griddles. Whether savory or sweet, each crepe is stuffed with a winning combination, such as goat cheese, mushrooms, and spinach ($9); banana and Nutella ($5); or the devilish blend of sautéed apples, Calvados, and rich crème fraiche known as the Normande ($7). A number of Continental potables are on hand to escort eats down dappled gullets—sip a kir royal (blackcurrant liqueur and champagne, $8) or a glass of house wine ($7), or drown sober worries with a bottle of chardonnay or Cote du Ventoux ($19).
Executive chef Vanessa Dang follows up her first blockbuster of French-inspired Vietnamese dishes with this intimate sequel promising elegant small-plate options and explosive flavors. The menu pokes sleepy taste buds with shareable small plates such as maple-leaf duck-confit lettuce wraps ($9) and tuna-and-salmon poke with ginger, avocado, mango, and cucumber-and-tomato salsa ($9). Full-sized entrees combine intercontinental palates with mouth-warping orders of cumin-marinated jumbo prawns and garlic noodles ($16) or a rack of lamb marinated with Dijon-mustard peppercorn in a Bing-cherry reduction ($25). Fill out abridged meals with a glass from the saga-worthy, 150-bottle wine list or a sweet-tooth-regaling Fuji-apple-and-coconut egg roll ($8).
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.