After dining at Paris’ La Rollange restaurant, Ali Elsafy, owner of Menlo Park’s venerable Bistro Vida, was so smitten with his meal, he asked the restaurant’s chef if she would be willing to move to the United States and take over the kitchen of his restaurant. The answer was yes.
Marine Thomas is adding some ambitious dishes to the eatery’s classic menu (cassoulet, steak frites, coq au vin) and showing her creative side with a weekly four-course, $75 “menu du chef.”
A recent meal started with pâté de campagne, followed with a scallops composition, then a main plate of lamb en croûte (puff pastry), and mango rice pudding for dessert. The ever evolving menu might feature tuna tartare as a starter one week or duck confit with white beans and eggplant the next.
In the next few months, Elsafy will assess diners’ responses to the new dishes, then he and Thomas will determine just how far the menu will veer from traditional bistro offerings. In any event, Bistro Vida, which always has felt like it was lifted straight out of a quiet Paris neighborhood, feels even more Parisian than ever with its new chef from the City of Lights.
641 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; (650) 462-1686. Bistrovidamp.com
Akisu Sushi Bar & Grill is a compact new Japanese restaurant in Foster City’s Beach Plaza Mall. Sashimi plates, traditional maki and nearly two dozen creative rolls are the centerpiece at lunch or dinner.
Diners who enjoy spice will gravitate to the Santiago Roll, with a spicy crab and eel filling, topped with hamachi, real crab, jalapeño and sriracha sauce. Akisu’s home city is honored with the Foster City Roll, featuring salmon, crab, avocado and tobiko.
Bacon-wrapped scallops, gyoza dumplings and tempura are among appetizers on the menu, which combines classic Japanese izakaya bar bites and some offerings with distinct American influences – spicy deep fried tuna poppers, for example. Teriyaki, grilled beef, udon and ramen round out the menu selections.
1457 Beach Park Blvd., Foster City; (650) 235-935
Menlo Park and San Carlos
Tuesday is Bastille Day, France’s patriotic equivalent to America’s Fourth of July. Left Bank Brasserie in Menlo Park is observing the holiday with live music, staff dressed in traditional French costumes and menu specials.
Meanwhile, San Carlos’ small French café Cuisinett complements its menu of comfort dishes (moules frites, croque monsieurs) with special French sparkling wines for the celebration.
635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; (650) 473-6543. Leftbank.com
1105 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos; (650) 463-3390. Cuisinett.com