I had a great meal at Three Seasons the other night in Palo Alto. The most surprising thing here though BATS! Thats right if you eat outside you will be treated to bats (hundreds of em) flying directly over your head from the adjacent building.
Needless to say we ate inside.
Anyway, from looking at previous reviews of Three Seasons on Chowhound, and knowing the usual response to upscale ethnic chow, I can tell you ahead of time that Chowhounders eating here will have one of two assessments. Either they will appreciate the food here or they will say, Instead of going there, get the real deal at (fill in the blank authentic hole in the wall). The thing is, the dishes we had at Three Seasons were quite different or (more likely) not offered at all at other cheaper, more authentic places.
Anyway, on to the chow:
Beef rolls (6 very plump rolls for $10) to start (beef, peanut, fresh pineapple, spicy vinaigrette). There is a huge assortment of spring rolls and satays to choose from on the menu. Of all our dishes this tasted closest to what you might find in a regular Vietnamese place. All the ingredients tasted very fresh and sharp. A great start.
Skipped the small plates (mostly seafood and I was with 2 people who were seafood-unfriendly) and went straight to the large plates:
Lemon Grass Chicken (with red bell pepper, green onion, and caramel sauce for $13) was quite good but not as good as any of the beef dishes.
Shaking Beef (cubes of beef wok-tossed with green onion, black pepper and garlic sauce for $15) had good flavor but the beef was cooked more (medium?) that it should have been (also on our friends previous visit they said it was better when less cooked).
Mango Beef (beef wok-tossed with fresh mango and oyster sauce for $15) was excellent with a nice tangy-ness to the marinade on the beef. This was my boyfriends and my favorite dish.
Under sides, we ordered the Garlic Noodles (fresh egg noodles sauteed with garlic butter sauce. Topped with parmesan cheese and fried shallot for $6). This dish we ranked the worst of those ordered. The flavor was very non-descript and the randomly sprinkled-on fried shallots added nothing.
We ended our meal with a pair of $7 desserts. I didnt get a chance to try our friends mango with sticky rice, which was the tiniest portion Ive ever seen of this dish. My boyfriend and I split the chocolate banana spring rolls with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce. These werent as small as our friends dessert, but not large by any means. The spring rolls were good but not amazing. The ice-cream, with many visible pieces of vanilla bean, was quite good, and ended the meal nicely.
We left full and content and ready to fight the bat onslaught outside. Unfortunately they were nowhere to be found. We saw them before at 8 p.m. and I have a feeling they only fly out certain times a day (as at Carlsbad Caverns or in Austin where the bats fly out at a certain time each night).
518 Bryant St. (@ University)
(Locations also in Walnut Creek and San Francisco)