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[DFW] Zander's House, Plano


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[DFW] Zander's House, Plano

Kirk | Jul 2, 2006 09:13 PM

Zander's House has received quite a bit of attention in the short time it has been open. Teresa Gubbins was the first to write about it ;
people have commented about Zander's pho on Chowhound ;
the Dallas Morning News has reviewed it

I have to admit that, based on its being described as a New York import, I approached it with some trepidation. First, that's because I am not a big fan of the many branches of New York restaurants that have sprouted in Dallas. Second, it's because -- when it comes to Vietnamese food -- I probably would have been more impressed by an Orange County or Los Angeles "pedigree," because of the larger Vietnamese population in those areas. But I got over my hesitation ... funny how the promise of good food can overcome so many prejudices!

Besides, this is not a branch of a New York restaurant. It is owned by a family that had a restaurant in New York but moved to this area last year, after tiring of the New York area. The family members run the kitchen and the front of the house, and are delightful people who obviously love their business.

After having lunch at Zander's House a couple of weekends ago, we stopped in for dinner last night. The restaurant's lunch menu is full of typical Vietnamese standards -- spring rolls, soups, vermicelli dishes -- that have three things going for them: they are very well prepared; beautifully presented, and very reasonably priced.

The dishes we had at dinner last night all shared those attributes, but they were much more complex in preparation and flavor than the lunch dishes. They also were among the best Vietnamese dishes I have tried anywhere.

We began with Rocket Shrimp Rolls, which are large butterflied shrimp and diced vegetables wrapped in a rice paper crepe and deep fried. Compared to other "rocket shrimp" I've tried -- which have omitted the diced vegetables, and which often taste of the oil in which they are fried -- these were lighter, more like an egg roll, and had no oiliness at all. (My wife liked them so much that she got another order for "dessert.")

For our main course, with our server's guidance, we ordered Spicy Red Snapper (a whole snapper deep fried and topped with a lightly spicy, sweet and sour, lime and chilli-infused sauce); Zander's BBQ Beef (crispy, thin-sliced pieces of beef -- sirloin, maybe? -- in a sweet soy sauce with a little kick of chillis, served, surprisingly to me, with buttered toast points), and Garlic Green Beans (dry-fried only until they began to lose their rawness). Our server also brought us a side dish of very small, pickled chillis, which she said she had grown herself in her garden in Queens last year.. They were extraordinary, and added a welcome heat and delicious complexity to the dishes.

Our server, who is the only daughter among the owner's seven children, suggested several dishes we might try on our next visit, including a grilled red snapper in rice paper which requires 40 minutes marinating and cooking time. ("Call us when you leave your house, and it will be ready when you're ready for your entree," she said.) One of her brothers also suggested that we ask about items not on the menu. ("If we put everything on the menu, it would confuse people," he said. "Plus we can make dishes from what's freshest that day." As an aside, be sure to ask the brother how his family ended up with seven children. He has a very funny story.)

Zander's House recently obtained a liquor license, and has ceased its BYOB policy. They have a selection of Asian beers but, as yet, none from Vietnam because the owners haven't identified a distributor that can supply them. I am looking forward to exploring their wine list, because I imagine that good wine pairings could enhance the flavors of the dishes even more than beer.

Our dinner -- two appetizers (one for dessert), two entrees (including the "market-priced" snapper), a vegetable and more beer than I should have had -- was $90 before tip. It was worth every penny of that, in my opinion.

Zander's House
2300 N Central Expressway
(East side frontage road, just north of Park -- we got off at 15th)
Plano, TX 75074
Phone: 972-943-9199

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