Zesty Baguette Bistro opened this spring, strategically positioned on Commons Drive to catch bridge traffic, and near several thriving business and shopping centers. The corner position gives it great visibility for tourists and for the working lunch trade. They are open daily, offering separate lunch and dinner menus.
This area has plenty of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai dining spots, but Vietnamese places are pretty rare. Vietnam was colonized for some years by the French, who were finally shown the door. They left, but the Vietnamese realized there were some things about their former occupiers that were worth keeping, among them bread and wine. Paris is filled with Vietnamese restaurants, many of them rated for fine cuisine.
My family and I ate dinner at Zesty Baguette on a recent weeknight. The restaurant interior layout makes the most of a relatively small space. There are two dining areas, banquette-style and freestanding tables, with cloth napkins and fresh flowers. High ceilings with hanging lights, large potted plants, and draped windows create an air of openness and stylish comfort.
We sat next to a window, something guaranteed to distract our five-year-old daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner, growing taller daily). Grace is in her less-than-adventurous eating years (as a toddler, she’d try whatever we offered her), though she can at least be persuaded to nibble. There is a children’s menu.
The dinner menu offers crispy-bite and special small-bite appetizers, Vietnamese dishes, apple-kale salad options, Asian or arugula fusion salads, and French and New Orleans-inspired dishes. There are also daily specials listed on a chalkboard.
We were not indulging that night, but I did notice that Zesty Baguette has an extensive wine list, as well as various beers (including one from Vietnam I’d like to try sometime).
We started with two apps—spring rolls and beef rillettes. Other small bites were crispy beef ravioli, crispy honey chicken, lemongrass meatball, chimichurri chicken, salmon rillettes, and lemongrass steamed mussels.
For the main course, I had already decided on one of the specials—curried scallops with local vegetables. My wife’s decision took a little longer—it was hard to decide. She chose something from the French-Orleans menu, boeuf bourguignon. TD got fried chicken and mac and cheese.
The apps came. There were two spring rolls, large size, with carrots and lettuce, and a sweet dipping sauce. We shared, and while TD had to wait until hers had completely cooled (she has a hot food aversion, or so she tells us), she liked what she had. The wrappers are fried crisp, and there’s an abundance of chicken, shrimp and mushroom filling. These are definitely meat-lovers’ spring rolls.
The beef rillette was almost a meal in itself. Shredded beef is slow cooked in its own fat and juices, and seasoned with star anise, hoisin and pepper. You pull it apart (kind of like barbecue, really) and spread it on wedges of thick, crispy toasted bread. Zesty Baguette serves great bread.
The main courses came as we finished the starters. My wife’s boeuf bourguignon smelled wonderful, as a bowl of thick beef chunks, vegetables, arugula, peppers and rich stock should. She got more bread, too. The beef was melting tender, and I think they had stirred some cheese into it (that was not on the menu description, but I think it was cheese). She took about half home.
I dearly love a scallop, and plump scallops in a sweet, coconut and herb-based curry sauce did nothing to change my opinion. The curry was mild, and filled with colorful squash, greens, and crisp string beans. Steamed rice comes on the side. I took none home.
Ordinarily I don’t sample TD’s food, but the chicken looked interesting. The breast had a darker batter I wanted to try. I’m glad I did. It was seasoned with five-spice, which really dresses up a kid’s meal. The mac and cheese looked house-made too, not the usual yellow stuff from a box. TD loved it.
Other Vietnamese menu choices are ginger chicken, lemongrass chicken, seared steak with peppers and vegetables, yellow curry with a choice of tofu, chicken, shrimp or salmon, rice with cucumber, pickled carrot and fish vinaigrette with choice of pork, chicken or shrimp. Dinner salads include apple/kale, spinach or arugula with various meats.
The French/Orleans menu offers sirloin with kale-mashed potatoes, buttermilk pork loin, grilled salmon and shrimp, grilled lamb rack, and chicken paillard Milanese.
The desserts were tiramisu and cheesecake. We passed, but my wife and I agreed we would be back.
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