Upscale Vietnamese food in Walnut Creek

I was never a fan of Vietnamese food, largely because I had Vietnamese roomies in college and their idea of cooking soured me on the cuisine for ages.

Then I found cheap Phó houses in Oakland, where I could get a huge bowl of really good chicken noodle soup for next to nothing, and my opinion started to change.

Having heard more than once that the combination of Asian and French cooking emanating from Saigon was the height of the oriental cooking arts, I was still looking for this magic cultural marriage.  Look no further, Elévé has opened in downtown Walnut Creek.

Situated diagonally across North Main from City Hall, the dark minimalist interior provides focus for excellent food.   Gail and I wandered in tonight about 8:30, pretty late for the ‘burbs on a Sunday night. (We had just lost the 7 pm speedball tournament on Bridge Base).

We started with the vegetarian spring rolls, which are not at all like what you might be accustomed to in a Chinese place.  These are not fried, the wrapper is like a paper-thin noodle and the filling is crisp and fresh.  Complemented by a tangy, pungent dipping sauce, they are a completely new experience.

We then shared a Pork Firepot; pork belly and shoulder cooked in an anchovy broth with hard cooked eggs.  “Anchovy” scares many people, but it has no fishy taste at all, just richness and depth.  The seasonings were soft and delicate, not strong.

Our other dish was yellow curry chicken–but not what you would expect in a Thai restaurant.  Again, the seasonings were delicate and thoughtful.  The spiciness creeps up on you, it doesn’t assault your tastebuds.

Service got off to a rocky start, but smoothed out nicely.  Our waiter was not some kid off the street starting out–we recognized him from Va Di Vi, where he worked for a year.

Being all green and eco-conscious is the rage these days, but restaurants lose points with me when they don’t offer the normal non-sugar sweeteners, instead foisting “Stevia” on me.  Whatever it is, I don’t like it.  Give me the blue stuff.  Or the yellow stuff.  I’ll hug a tree on the way home to atone.

Prices are on the high side of reasonable–our dinner, with 2 glasses of Pinot Grigio was $65.  I think the $2/bowl for jasmine rice is tacky.

The answer to the basic question is, Yes, we’d go back.  Vietnamese was the original Asian fusion food, and they still do it well.  It’s nice to have a casual place with quality cuisine right in the backyard.

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