1663 W. San Carlos Ave.
San Jose, CA 95128
The Secret Lives of Strip Malls
Many of Santa Claras culinary gems reside anonymously in strip malls among the legions of dry cleaners and convenience stores. A new addition, Anise Café, a new addition featuring California style Vietnamese cuisine, is hidden from San Carlos street snug in an alcove populated by inviting outdoor seating. Inside, the decor reflects the fine tastes of the owners. The slate floor is like a roughened seabed that meets glowing, curving ocher walls that sensuously divide the space. Flattering lighting highlights the hip bar and racks of fine wines nearby.
Service was extremely friendly and efficient. After explaining the drink menu, the bartender whipped up a signature Lava martini in a couple of minutes. The multilayered
concoction of pineapple, coconut and mango juices was a delicious as it was beautiful.
The menu is designed to encourage the sharing of small plates. The Anise spring rolls ($5) were cut on the bias and presented artfully with hoisin and chili sauce squiggles. Plump, moist shrimp crowned the perfectly rolled rice wrapper that layered rice vermicelli, Daiken and carrot in symphonic harmony. I would skip the Buffalo wings ($5), which were simply deep fried chicken wings with no discernable flavoring.
The Rock and Roll beef ($14), Pad Thai ($10) and Grilled Tiger Prawn and garlic noodles ($11) were perfect for sharing. Cubes of vinegered , flash cooked beef sat strewn on a bed of fresh butter lettuce, blood red tomatoes and purple onion mixed surprisingly well with the parmesan flecked garlic noodles on which rested a
teepee of skewered grilled prawns. The pad thai was loaded with goodies that included egg, chicken, pork, shrimp and cilantro.
Too stuffed for dessert, we left with generous quantities of leftovers for our next evening meal.
Anise Café is a vibrant and young venture where style and substance meet to bring forth the best of Vietnamese (and other Asian) cuisine in a refined and sophisticated setting. The friendly and energetic staff is really a pleasure to interact with and will offer sound advice aiding in the difficult decisions as you stare at a menu where everything sounds delicious.