Le Colonial in SF offers French Vietnamese dishes under beautiful design

Le Colonial's outdoor patio
The beautiful outdoor space at Le Colonial.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

I’ll go out for a bowl or Phó or some spring rolls at least once every couple of weeks – especially since I live in a SF neighborhood that offers some serious Asian cuisine. That number goes up even higher when Karl the Fog starts rearing his ugly head, making for super chilly nights. There’s something so comforting about a big bowl of soup, or some Vietnamese-spiced noodle and rice dishes. However, when looking to step up my Vietnamese-food game, I got introduced to Le Colonial, an amazing, hidden spot for fancy French Vietnamese dishes.

Located near downtown SF and open for more than 15 years, Le Colonial is where you should go when looking for a romantic spot for a date, or to impress your colleagues and business partners. Fancy some authentic Vietnamese dishes with a touch of French flair? This place is perfect.

Le Colonial's Bright Eyes cocktail
Le Colonial’s Bright Eyes cocktail

Take in the fresh air and pull up a seat outside within the lush courtyard, or find a spot in the main dining room, or sneak away upstairs and find a seat in one of the many nooks at the Lounge for live music and people watching. The wine and specialty cocktail list is enormous. I’m a sucker for “healthy” cocktails and the Bright Eyes was calling my name: Boudier Saffron Gin, aperol, carrot juice, orange bitters, and muddled carrots.

Le Colonial's Appetizer Platter
Le Colonial’s Appetizer Platter

The beautiful Appetizer Platter from Le Colonial from nadia ibanez on Vimeo.

We started our meal by ordering the Appetizer Tasting Platter, which came with an assortment of Vegetable Spring Rolls; Crispy Rolls with crab, shrimp and chicken; Baby Back Pork Ribs glazed with hoisin and passion fruit sauces; Coconut Crusted Mini Crab Cakes; and Ahi Tuna Tartare. This platter is perfect if you can’t decide between a few different starters.

Le Colonial's famous shaken beef
Le Colonial’s famous shaken beef.
The Brussel Sprouts at Le Colonial
The Brussel Sprouts at Le Colonial are ridiculously addicting.

Le Colonial is known for its Bo Luc Lac, or Shaken Beef, and it’s pretty clear why. Filet mignon is cubed and is wok-seared in a sweet and savory soy sauce before served on a bed of watercress with pickled red onion, fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and crispy lotus chips. This dish is stunning and you’ll love tearing into it to get the perfect bite. I highly recommend you order a bowl of their Coconut Rice and their Crispy Sweet Chili-Glazed Brussel Sprouts. Those dishes alone are well worth the trip to Le Colonial.

You’ll find some standard Vietnamese dishes on the menu, like Chicken Pho and Roasted Lemongrass Chicken, along with French-inspired cuisine like Steak Au Poivre Vert and French Seabass. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, soup, or beautiful pieces of meat, there’s something for everyone. Save room for dessert because you’ll find items like the Le Colonial Banana Roties, caramelized bananas on baked cassava cake and Orange & Lime Crepes Cake.

Outside of Le Colonial
Outside of Le Colonial

For some of us, taking a break from their local Vietnamese mom and spot to try out “fancier” interpretations of traditional rice and noodle dishes offer perspective into the country’s tastes. The combination of the ingredients may be exactly the same, but the presentation, service, and ambiance makes for a world of change. For more information, on Le Colonial, visit http://www.lecolonialsf.com/.

 

Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle: Where color, nature and avant-garde shapes come to play



Chihuly Garden and Glass and Space Needle
The Glasshouse at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

Sometimes when I travel and know I’m headed to a landmark everyone knows and raves about, I’ll intentionally ward off all photos and online reviews so I can actually experience it for the first time with my own eyes. There’s something magical about going somewhere you know everyone loves and savoring the surprise for yourself.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Seattle these days and Chihuly Garden and Glass came highly recommended. If you’ve been to the Bellagio in Vegas, or one of the 200 museums where his work lives, you’re well aware of the magnificence in Chihuly’s creations. But if you want to be surrounded by beautiful glass installations – inside, outside and ceiling to floor – Chihuly Garden and Glass is definitely a must see.

We visited the Garden on a typically cloudy day and spent the day learning about Chihuly’s educational background, the things that have inspired his work, and where you can find his avant-garde pieces around the world. You could spend hours at this place and I highly recommend you do.

Every corner you turn, vivid colors and wild shapes are thrown in your face – in the best way possible.

Chihuly's Glass Forest
Chihuly’s Glass Forest

You’ll start your walking tour in the Glass Forest and mosey on into the Northwest Room and amazing Sealife Room. Don’t forget to spend some time in the Persian Ceiling room – it’s absolutely mesmerizing. My favorite room definitely was the Mille Fiori room where dozens of glass forms mimic extraterrestrial flora. The explosion of color is absolutely stunning.

Chihuly's Mille Fiore
Chihuly’s Mille Fiore

Chihuly-Mille-Fiore

“I’ve been inspired by so many things,” Chihuly says on the audio tour. “One of which was growing up in a garden that my mother had. She had beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas and I got to play in the garden and be around all of these beautiful, natural forms. They also had a big influence on me, in terms of color.”

Chihuly's Chandeliers
Chihuly’s Chandeliers

Chihuly-Chandelier-blue

Water lovers will appreciate the Ikebana and Float Boats room where glass pieces are placed in wooden row boats. Chihuly’s actual drawings, which came to fruition after his eye accident, are on display on the Drawing Wall. The enormous Chandeliers and the Macchia Forest are next on the tour and the colors and contrast will blow your mind.

Chihuly-Space-Needle
The Space Needle and a spattering of clouds. So Seattle.
Outside at the Chihuly Garden
Outside at the Chihuly Garden

The Glasshouse makes for the perfect photo op and if you angle your camera the right way, the Space Needle and City Center make for a great backdrop. The floral sculpture is 100 feet long and 25 feet high and is designed to fill up the glasshouse while also leaving a lot of negative space for your eyes to wander. Lastly, the Garden is a great way to end your tour. The natural landscape and glass complement each other in a beautiful way and makes for a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the scenery.

Chihuly-Garden-Glass-4

Chihuly Garden and Glass hosts other events revolving around kids, food, music and even yoga. If you’re a local Seattleite, check out their events calendar. This place is unreal and definitely worth spending a few hours in. You’ll be amazed at everything within these walls. For more information, visit www.chihulygardenandglass.com.

Thank you to the team at Chihuly Garden and Glass for letting us visit! We can’t wait to come back!

Eat Drink SF Saturday Grand Tasting celebrates restaurants, distilleries + winemakers old and new

entrance into Eat Drink SF
The always stunning entrance into Eat Drink SF.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

In case you missed it, Eat Drink SF is back at it this weekend showing off some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, along with some amazing wine and spirit makers. The Fort Mason Pavilion was dressed up to the nines, offering space for rows of restaurants, cooking demos, giveaways, and so much more.

Check out some of the photos from Saturday’s Grand Tasting event.

Panna Cotta from Bluestem Brasserie
Pork loin from Causwells
Pure deliciousness from Rose Pistola
Bright and fresh ceviche
Definitely came back for seconds at the Bix table
Pabu serving up hand rolls
Adorable and delicious cheesecakes with roasted peaches and a ginger crust
Chicken meatball skewers from Delarosa
Kale salad and steak from Fogo de Chao

Irish Coffees galore from The Buena Vista at Eat Drink SF 2016 from nadia ibanez on Vimeo.

Just one of the many bites from Eat Drink SF 2016 from nadia ibanez on Vimeo.

One of the reasons that I love going to Eat Drink SF every year is because of the people — chefs, mixologists, wine makers, and event attendees. San Francisco is undoubtedly a foodie city and people here love celebrating the legacy of our old restaurants, as well as the new kids on the block making waves in the industry. No matter how you slice it, this event brings people together to celebrate our crazy bubble and all of the personalities within.

Hudson Valley serving up foie gras milkshakes and duck and cheese grilled sandwiches
So much love in the room 🙂
Uno Dos tacos serving up their delicious bites
My favorite man of the evening

There’s still time to get tickets for the Sunday After Grand Tasting. Get ’em while you can!

And a huge thank you to the folks at EDSF for letting me attend again this year. I definitely see this event becoming part of my SF tradition. See you again next year!

Okane, sister restaurant of Omakase, offers approachable and delicious Izakaya-style dining

Okane's Hamachi dish
Fresh Hamachi? Yes, please.

I had the absolute pleasure of dining at SOMA’s now Michelin-starred Omakase last year and was so excited to hear that their team has opened a new casual dining space right next door. Okane is where you want to go if you’re looking for an authentic izakaya dining experience serving hyper traditional Japanese dishes and drinks. A few months after they opened, the restaurant offered a peek into the space and menu.

My friend and I came for a visit after work one day and were greeted with the sounds of Naughty by Nature and Biggie Smalls over the sound system and two glasses of bubbly. If that isn’t a total Bay Area dining experience, then I don’t know what is.

Okane's sushi roll
Okane’s Harajuku roll was delicious and super fresh.
Okane wagyu roll
The Shinjuku roll is definitely a treat for anyone.

We started our meal with some cold sake and beautiful pieces of Shimofuri Hamachi served with an olive oil yuzu shoyu drizzle and jalapeño. The Harajuku roll was delicious and was a roll of salmon, avocado and shrimp tempura topped with tuna, spicy kabayaki and fried lotus root chips. We also indulged in the Shinjuku, a roll of snow crab and avocado, topped with torched wagyu beef, garlic and pepper.

Okane's eel tempura
Who knew Eel Tempura could be so good?

The fish courses that followed were the Saba Karaage, a fried piece of mackerel with daikon and serrano peppers; the Grilled Sake Lees Cured Alaskan Cod; and the Anago Tempura, fried pieces of eel stacked with burdock root and tentsuyu, a Japanese tempura dip. All were delicious and offered a peak into the many fish preparations on the menu.

After a couple palate cleansers of Chawanmushi and roasted seaweed rice with savory tea broth, we both dove head first into a bowl of Black Sesame Ice Cream with a drizzle of Okinawa brown sugar sauce. The meal was totally well-rounded, the fish tasted like it was just caught, and the service was perfect. Not to mention, some of the ingredients are flown in from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market.

Traditional Japanese dining can be pretty intimidating, whether you’re just learning how to use chopsticks or are seasoned eaters looking for more adventurous dishes. The team at Okane, led by vet restauranteur Kash Feng, is making omakase and izakaya-style dining more approachable…while also delicious.

For more information, visit www.okanesf.com.

 

Are you ready for Eat Drink SF 2016?

Eat Drink SF 2015
A photo from Eat Drink SF 2015

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

It’s that time of year when Bay Area foodies come out in droves to spend the weekend rubbing elbows with the city’s finest chefs, wine/beer/booze makers and mixologists. Eat Drink SF is in its eighth year and will be held once again at the Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center. Eat Drink SF was the first food festival I went to in the City and still is one of my favorites.

Crab Cakes from One Market
Crab Cakes from One Market

Check out my coverage of last year’s event here.

Founded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) back in 2009, Eat Drink SF brings together 160+ restaurants offering unlimited bite-sized versions of their claim-to-fame dishes while attendees walk around with their drink of choice or check out demos and classes. (And trust that you’ll find a new favorite drink from one of the 70 bars, distilleries, wineries and breweries in attendance.) If you’ve ever wanted to be under the same roof with all of your favorite restaurants, this is your event.

This year’s event starts August 25 with everyone’s favorite, the Taco Knockdown, and goes into the weekend with four Grand Tasting events. And if you’ve never been to an SF food festival, expect a lot of wandering through rows trying to figure out what to eat or drink next. No wallets, no fuss…just pure culinary fun.

New this year at Eat Drink SF 2016:

  • A Sunday Grand Tasting event will celebrate GGRA’s 80th anniversary and honor Bay Area bars and restaurants that have been open for at least 20 years.
  • A personal favorite, Buena Vista Café will be pouring their famous Irish Coffees at all four Grand Tastings.
  • The SF Brewers Guild will be in attendance and pouring local brews in the Backyard Bites section.
  • A new “Bay Bar” will feature cocktails from the city’s hottest cocktails bars, like Hard Water, The Treasury, Whitechapel, and more.
  • Look out for a Milagro Margarita Mix Off added to the Thursday Taco Knockdown event.
Tyler Florence of Wayfare Tavern
Tyler Florence serving up a Corn and Prawn soup at the Wayfare Tavern booth.
Executive Chef, Danny Kou, of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Executive Chef, Danny Kou, of La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
Eat Drink SF Souvla
Souvla serves up their AMAZING lamb

Ready for an indulgent weekend? Get your tickets now at www.eatdrink-sf.com. See you there!