Thursday, December 29, 2005

Three Seasons, Palo Alto

Last night marked my third visit to Three Seasons' Palo Alto location (the other two are in San Francisco and Walnut Creek). Jon was out of town, so it was just me, my sister and her husband. But don't worry -- we still ordered enough food to feed at least four.

Broken up into a number of categories -- spring rolls, satay, soups and salads, small plates, large plates, noodles and sides -- the menu is surprisingly extensive. Here are my favorites in each:

  • Spring rolls: I like to go traditional here and order the version filled with pork and shrimp. Although dipping the rolls in just the peanut sauce is a perfectly delicious way to eat them, I add a little of the chili sauce as well (a.k.a. "The Rooster Sauce").
  • Satay: It's a close race between the teriyaki beef and the Malaysian lamb, but the latter wins out (even though I would like the accompanying curry sauce to be thicker).
  • Soups and salads: The tropical fruit salad features chunks of pineapple, mango, papaya and cucumber. Dried cranberries, glazed walnuts and a spicy dressing are also tossed into the mix. There's a nice contrast of ingredients (soft, crunchy, sweet, spicy).
  • Small plates: Three Seasons' happy buns are a twist on the more often-seen steamed pork buns. Instead of pork, you get Peking duck. And I love the hoisin chili sauce that comes with it.
  • Large plates: The Chilean sea bass is brought to the table in a small, jade-colored porcelain bowl (points for presentation). The steamed, silky white meat is swimming in a savory broth that is flavored with ginger, shitake mushrooms, fried shallots and white lily buds. Being the noodle-whore that I am, I also like the cellophane noodles in this dish.
  • Noodles: This category is limited to only two contenders. My vote goes to the tiger prawns and garlic noodles, although I opt for no parmesan on top. (Parmesan? In Vietnamese food? I don't think so.)
  • Sides: The blue lake green beans manage to be crispy and juicy. Sauteed with shitake mushrooms and shallots, they are some of the best I've had.

My sister has been raving about Three Seasons' banana-chocolate spring rolls for months, but during my previous meals here, I had skipped dessert. Since the third time is indeed a charm, I was finally able to sample the spring rolls last night. And, yes, they lived up to all of the hype. Four crispy rolls filled with bananas and chocolate, drizzled with caramel, are served up with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. If you like bananas, you're in luck: The fried banana is another excellent dessert choice. I also ordered a glass of the Inniskillin Cabernet Franc (an ice wine made with red grapes). Delicious.

During each of my dining experiences here, the service has been great. The place can get a little loud when it's busy (which is often), but that just adds to the energy. It's nice to know that this stretch of University Avenue can handle two wonderful, contemporary Vietnamese eateries -- Three Seasons and the previously reviewed Tamarine.

Three Seasons
518 Bryant Street
Palo Alto, Ca
(650) 838-0353