Monday, November 5th, 2007
A true sister act to Kelly Shu and Chang Liow’s sushi restaurant, Ume, SF-trained sibling Debbie Shu heads up Chinois Asian Bistro, an ultra-modern pan-Asian kitchen. Think Betelnut meets Wine Country.
On the menu are several types of dim sum (finally come to SoCo), small plates of everything from panko prawns with wasabi-honey, chicken satay and Singaporean Roti Prata (a sort of flat bread with curry dip) to sautéed mung beans, garlic egg noodles and what you’ve come here for–seafood Nonya Laksa.
This Malaysian-inspired noodle soup starts with a thick, creamy coconut broth infused with pungent spices (cardamom, fennel, Chinese cinnamon bark to name a few) topped with clams, scallops, shrimp, fried bean curd and a hard-boiled egg. The crowning jewel is a dab of fresh coconut meat and a squeeze of lime. Exotic? Yes. But this kind of simple, honest, home style food is simply what Debbie (and many of the rest of us) having been craving ’round these parts. “This is just the stuff that I want to eat,” she says.
Add to her cravings Beef Lumpia ($6), a delicate fried spring roll bathed in a honey chili sauce that has a sweet, savory, hot flavor that begs to be licked from the plate. Sautéed mung bean sprouts arrive like a small work of art. They’re earthy and slightly bitter with bits of dried shrimp nestled inside, along with homemade shrimp and taro chips.
Garlic egg noodles are a signature dish that seem bland at first–little more than a plate of mostly unadorned homemade noodles. But they grow on you with each bite, tender, chewy and dangerously addictive. During lunch, plates of Rendang Beef and grilled pineapple baby back ribs come with an organic house salad, daikon soup (which Debbie says she grew up eating for breakfast) and jasmine rice. It’s a great way to sample a few dishes with a friend.
Dessert’s best bet is a simple coconut crème brulee. Do not turn it away no matter how full you are and don’t plan to share it. It’s that good.
The wine list is intriguing, with Chang’s past expertise in pairing Asian flavors with different grapes shining through. Currently the list is focused on wines mostly outside the area (European, Australian) but he’s adding more quickly, with plans for a large in-house cellar. The restaurant offers a complete menu of high-end sakes and exotic teas.
Chinois Asian Bistro, 186 Windsor River Road, Windsor, 707.838.4667