Friday, March 18, 2005

Walnut Creek, CA - Three Seasons

The food at Three Seasons can only be described as Vietnamese food that has been elevated to royal status via Cinderella-esque transformation. We couldn't get enough of the fusion flavors and textures that provided an almost-perfect dining experience.

The early spring-like air invigorated our spirits, and after wandering around the picturesque-meets-trendy downtown neighborhood of Walnut Creek, we peeked our heads into this deep-toned, tranquil niche. We kept our dinner on the cool side to match the impeccable weather.

The menu ranges from items with a clear Vietnamese heritage, to those that seem, at best, mildly pan-Asian. I wasn't much interested in most of the latter, but one caught my eye. The Viper Roll promised a rice flour wrapper of grilled eel, sweet soy 'tare' sauce, and cheese, served with a ginger soy dip. Eel? And cheese? Images of thick, smooth cheese sliding over flaky, warm eel came to mind. I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, the marriage of eel and cheese was not a happy one, at least not in this manifestation. The sad highlight was the soy dipping sauce with gari (Japanese picked ginger), which was sweet, tangy, and light. The messy swirl of wasabi paste and a cocktail-chili siracha sauce were extraneous, and felt like a hasty afterthought rather than a carefully-placed element. The rolls were more about looks than anything else. Rice noodles, lettuce, and cucumber (sadly, no Vietnamese herbs to add flair) completely upsurped the 'main' ingredients of eel and cheese. When my tongue finally located a sliver of eel, the cold shredded cheddar cheese rudely pushed it out of the way. What a disappointment; my homemade rolls are far superior to this.

Luckily, from here on out, everything instantly got better. We decided on a garlic-fried crab dish for the wonderful seasonal price of $20, the house specialty of garlic noodles, and string beans with mushrooms.

Even the crab shell crackers were elegant.

When the crab arrived, I couldn't stop taking pictures of it. Spectacular!

The crab was impeccably fresh and well-cooked. The garlicky oil seeped in through the joint openings during cooking, resulting in light, fragrant, flaky meat. We fairly inhaled the dish, unabashedly getting our hands smeared with the seductive oil. The green onion and non-spicy chili (well-seeded!) adornment was just fabulous atop fluffy jasmine rice.

Garlic noodles sashaying with butter and parmesean cheese may be a far cry from a Vietnamese dish, but these thick, toothy, smooth noodles were so fantastic, I could care less about their authencity. It's easy to see why this is a house specialty.

Even the beans were great, standing out with a crisp freshness that was made rich with richly sweet shittake mushroom slices. Vegetarians would enjoy this restaurant a great deal, I believe.

Full-belled and sighing, we contentedly looked at the well-cleaned dishes of our meal, but as soon as the dessert menu was put in front of us, it only took a glance to find a second wind. Luckily, the combination of small dishes and one main dish allowed us the indulgence of multiple desserts.

Deeply-fragrant, soft but subtle banana cuddled with melted chocolate in lightly crackling, fried coccoons laced with caramel glaze. Fried bananas have nothing on these golden treasures. Homemade vanilla bean gelato was well-done; a beautifully-understated, supporting partner.

Ginger perked up this technically-perfect creme brulee coyly protected with a caramelized sugar shell. One of my eating partners claimed this as his favorite, but I found it to be a little heavy in contrast to the other flavors that had floated far above it.

This trio of geen tea, ginger, and lychee gelatos was a fair compromise between opulence and moderation, providing light richness on the tongue that unobtrusively and easily melted from one flavor to another.

This restaurant is gorgeous, both in atmosphere, with it's multicultural, foreign-tongued music and soothing walls and glass partitions depicting reed fields of Vietnam, and in the symphony of flavors it presents so well.

Three Seasons
1525 N. Main Street
Walnut Creek, CA


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be in Walnut Creek next fall, and will have to give this restaurant a try! Your shots are looking gorgeous, by the way...


2:31 PM  
Anonymous Laurel said...

Hi, your photos of the crab dish were well done. The lighting was perfect for detailing. Overall, those crabs made me very hungry :) I like your blog and hope you stick around. Thanks, Laurel

12:02 PM  
Blogger foodie said...

Moira - Hello! Thanks for finding your way back to my blog; I was on hiatus for a bit because school/work clobbered me pretty hard, and I thought I'd lost any visitors who happened by. Walnut Creek is one of those upper-class, leisurely residential areas, so I'm guessing you're visiting friends/family in the area. It's not quite a tourist spot. ;) If I come across any other interesting places in the WC vicinity, I'll post~ Thank you for the comment, too!

Laurel - Your name is so similar to mine (there are two of us doing this blog; one male and one female), I blinked when I saw your comment. May I ask how you found my blog? :) Thanks for the compliment! I think it's all courtesy of the equipment (Canon Powershot G6), more than anything else. I'll be sure to update when my schedule allows, so I hope to see you around in the future! :)

12:59 PM  

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