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[DFW] Zander's House, Plano

  • k

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
http://tgubbins.blogspot.com/2006/03/... ;
people have commented about Zander's pho on Chowhound http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... ;
the Dallas Morning News has reviewed it http://www.guidelive.com/portal/page?....

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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  1. Thanks for the report, Kirk. Sounds like one I'll have to check out. Nice to know about the off-menu possibilities.

    Scott

    1. Kirk, thanks for an excellent review. I work not far from this place and I'm going to make it a point to go over there for a bowl of phở.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Scagnetti

        The pho has gotten mixed reviews here. Ask your server about it before taking the plunge. And please report back on what you try.

      2. Kirk -

        Just did Zander's house last night, DELICIOUS!! We started out with the beef carpaccio. It had a real kick to it. Very tasty with a hint of lime. I did the bbq beef for my main course and my friend had the tamarind shrimp. The sauce was fantastic. It didn't look like a lot of food, but we were stuffed!

        They actually had a decent but small wine list. I just asked for a nice reisling becuase I couldn't decide from the 3 they had. All were germanic and more dry then sweet, which is how I like it.

        Thanks for reviewing this place. Great find!

        1 Reply
        1. re: simply_victoria

          Thanks, SV. Glad you enjoyed it.

          We went back a couple of weeks ago and found that they had gotten their alcohol license. Probably should have posted it here. That night, at our server's suggestion, we had the Santa Margherita pinot grigio and it was very good with our dishes. We were slightly stunned to learn that the bottle was $50 when the bill came, about three times retail for that wine ... not an unusual mark-up in the restaurant business but more than I was expecting.

          It was still a great dinner, even if it was more expensive than anticipated. All told, with tip, dinner for two was $180 that night.

        2. $50 for a bottle of santa margherita pinot grigio??? holy moley

          1 Reply
          1. re: teegee

            I know. I think I'll be teetotaling on my next visit.

          2. I've only been to Zander's for lunch, and thought it was nothing special. I was more impressed with the new Vietnamese/Asian restaurant on Walnut and Audelia, Bistro B. Give it a try but beware, the wait may be long and the service isn't very good. The restaurant was packed (20 minute wait) at 8PM on Sunday night.

            The best vietnamese food I've had in the metroplex was from Thanh Thanh in Arlington (Arkansas/360).

            1. You're right. As I said in my first comment, lunch is good, but nothing special...mostly good quality versions of many dishes you can find in a number of places.

              Dinner is a different menu, and worth a separate trip.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Kirk

                Thanks for the sharing your dining experience with us. My wife & I had a couple of cocktails in their spacious and comfortable lounge. They have some amazing drinks, i.e., mojito, Remy sangria. We started with the Vietnamese styled beef carpacio, which was wonderfully prepared. Each bite was better than the last. Great dish! For entrees, our waitress was very helpful. She guided & suggested the bbq Zander's beef (flank steak) and the market-priced grilled bass wrapped in banana leaves (allow 30 mins when placing your order). Both dishes were DELICIOUS!! We were full but had some room to share the coffee-flan. It was the perfect ending to a great meal. We'll bring our friends next time. Great find.

                1. re: love_good_food

                  What are the prices of lunch and dinner?

              2. You can easily do lunch for two for under $25, including an iced coffee/tea or soft drink.

                Last Saturday at lunch time, a group of us (six) ordered five appetizers and three entrees (including red snapper with chilli sauce) from the dinner menu, for about $25 per person.

                1. And, as best I could tell, no one went home hungry.

                  I'm looking forward to going back.

                  Scott

                  1. This is my second time back at Zander's, they have wine at half price by the bottle on Mondays & Wednesdays, also on Thursdays for parties of four or more. We had a bottle of Santa Margherita for $20.99. We had another great time.

                    1. Another rave review for Zanders. We just discovered it two weekends ago, and even though we've only had the "basic" lunch menu there (two Saturdays in a row), we're already planning on becoming regulars. The dinner menu sounds fantastic, and the beef carpaccio which has been mentioned several times before is available all day long. I am Vietnamese and was glad to find a place that serves the meals my mother makes, as good as (and better - but don't tell her I said so...) than she makes them.

                      1. We enjoyed the dinner at Zander's tonight. My man LOVED Mango Catfish, Chef's recommended appetizer, not on the menu. (It was too spicy for me and I liked the crepes better). We liked the BBQ beef (the toasts with BBQ sauce were tasty!) and fried squid (we loved the veggie soaked underneath). If you like tapioca, you'd enjoy banana pudding.

                        I printed this page out and took it with me so we'd know what to order! The fish wasn't available today. (Also, the chef said the red snapper would be too spicy for me).

                        We'll probably go back for lunch and order all the appetizers--the rolls look good!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: kuidaore

                          Based on all the glowing recommendations -- I finally convinced the wife to check it out (it is a bit of a drive from downtown). We certainly were not disappointed. Coming from Houston, I am fairly spoiled when it comes to Vietnamese food but this was creative and tasty.

                          I would recommend the clam fried rice. I can't say that we chose the best appetizers (we had a spring roll which was not my choice and was fairly ordinary and a chicken skewer appetizer which was a bit better). We should have gotten the off-menu item recommended by the waitress but my dining companions all balked. The salt/pepper squid was good (though I must say I actually prefer Oishii's combination seafood platter that is quite similar a little more). The shaking beef was also popular. We ordered it as a comparison to Slanted Door's in SF where we had ordered it just about a month ago. This version was just as tasty and cost about $8 less.

                          I wish more people will check this restaurant out as it was less than half full on a Friday evening (the place is huge). This place needs to stay open. Now we have a place to get our standard Vietnamese fix (Bistro B) and a nicer place to get items more out of the box.

                          1. re: Bhutani

                            I tried Zander's House a few months ago. They bought out a place and the outside needs to be remodeled or reconstructed. Inside is fairly nice. We had lunch on a Saturday. Menu is the typical Vietnamese cuisine. I asked and they say that "special clients" get the "special menu" and that I had to try food off of the regular menu first. It was ok but nothing special.

                            1. re: BellaDonna

                              If you ordered from their lunch menu, it's nothing special, pretty "boring"--just pho, bun and rice dishes, as mentioned by some ppl above. You have to get the dinner menu. We order from the dinner menu even for lunch, but then you'll be paying $40 for lunch for two!

                              I think their egg rolls are exceptionally good, though skinny.

                              1. re: kuidaore

                                I've been very impressed with Zander's House. It is the most well-executed, using quality ingredients, Vietnamese food I've found in the DFW area. Another poster mentioned Slanted Door in SF. I would agree that Zander's House is in the same league as Slanted Door, as well as Three Seasons in Palo Alto. These places are clean and have great atmosphere (which I do appreciate). More importantly though, the food quality has been taken up a notch.

                                I realize that at Zander's House price-point, they can afford to use better ingredients (such as a better cut of beef for their shaking beef dish), but it does make a difference in the final quality dish when the ingredients are better.

                                It's hard to convince DH to order anything other than the bo luc lac (shaking beef), but on our last visit the waiter convinced me to try the fried salmon with the nouc nam dipping sauce. At first I said no, because this is something that my mother makes, and he said, "Well, let's see if my mom makes it better than your mom." I have to admit, his mom's version of this dish was better.

                                I would also agree with other posters to skip the pho. We ordered some for our 3 year old, but this is definitely not a pho place.

                                I hope this place makes it. We've gone on Friday nights and it is only about half full. It's not typical around here for Vietnamese food to be considered upscale (the only other place I can think of is the now closed Dralion), but there really is a quality difference between Zander's House and Bistro B.

                                1. re: jasmine_bay

                                  Last time I ate a meal at Zander's House (early summer 2007, after a fellow chowhounder asked my opinion of the place and I honestly needed a refresh experience in order to answer), the waitstaff (not just one server, but the entire staff) made me and my friend feel like they were doing us a favor by serving us. Menu was tiny. Food arrived cold. Water glasses were never (I do mean never) refilled. My ordered beverage arrived half way through our entrees. Meanwhile the staff congregated just inside the kitchen door and over by the bar, chatting up the few customers there. Grilled (lemongrass) chicken was so dry I thought I was chewing wood pulp. Shaken beef was awful--I make it better at home, without a special wok stove/burner. The braised salmon was mushy and missing ingredients (like, duh, ginger). The friend with whom I was dining is hardly a foodie, yet even she had to wonder "what gives?" I'm all for giving any kitchen a mulligan for a bad day, but our meal was consistently bad. And the inexcusably poor service (even for a stateside Viet restaurant) makes me never want to go back. By contrast, I had received great service and thoroughly superior food, even in simple rural, country eateries with just 4-5 items on their menu and no access to quality animal protein except maybe a few fish and crabs, during my 9-day jaunt through Viet Nam, just a couple of months before my disaster at Zander's.

                                  In my opinion, what Draelion served cannot be called honest Viet cuisine. And Draelion's price point was about 3x what it should have been. Wine markups were 4x or more. Nowhere else in the world have I spent $400 on a meal for two, for faux Viet food, either. To me, Draelion was in the same category as North Dallas' temple to ego, Voltaire, which failed about as quickly. Both were ridiculous.

                                  And comparing Zander's to Slanted Door (which, while good, I value more for having elevated Viet food in the US' culinary consciousness than for the interminable waits for tables, high prices, condescending, hipper-than-thou servers and the muted flavors), indeed, just might go into *my* book as one of the most off-the-mark Chowhound comment of 2007. My opinions are my own only. Your mileage may vary. Whatever.

                                  1. re: guttural

                                    I'm sorry your last visit was a disappointment. I sympathize as I hate paying good money for a bad meal.

                                    I've been to Zander's 4-5 times and I found the service refreshing in that you actually were waited on rather than just have your food dropped off and then never seeing the waiter again (which is fine for a pho place as my expectation for service is low at such a place). I drink water constantly and my benchmark for good service is whether my glass remains filled. I haven't been disappointed here.

                                    As for the braised salmon, are we talking about clay pot salmon? I've only had this once and remember it to be good with a rich caramel flavor and lots of black pepper. Perhaps ginger in this dish is a regional variation? My mom adds ginger to the chicken version of this dish, but not with fish.

                                    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree over the quality of the food at Zander's. If you know of a better Vietnamese restaurant in the area, please let me know. I' always on the lookout for a good place, because even though I love to cook, I find many of the traditional dishes to be too time-consuming to make at home.

                                    Here are my picks:
                                    pho: Pho Pastuer (Beltline/Plano in Richardson)
                                    bun bo hue: I don't remember the name, but the place on Beltine/Jupiter in Richardson where the Saigon marketplace is going in. The bun was accompanied by a mix of shaved cabbage and banana shoots which I thought was a step up

                                    P.S. I had to chuckle as your comments could easily have been written by my brother. He took his family to Vietnam for 3-weeks this summer, mainly to eat the food. When I asked him how his trip was, I got descriptions of the eateries he went to and the dishes he ate.

                                    1. re: jasmine_bay

                                      Zander's House has an excellent grilled squid appetizer and their curry tofu is outstanding. The service isn't the best, but overall, my experience in the several times I've been there is noteworthy.

                        2. Just wanted to give this post a bump. We ate there last night and my oh my it was delicious. Yes it's a haul from Dallas and we live in East Dallas but IMO entirely worth the drive. We took advantage of the half-priced wine, ordered and off-menu appetizer of grilled (or maybe roasted) shrimp and pepper sauce and had lemongrass chicken and a basil beef dish for our entree. The entrees were fantastic although my understanding from our incredibly helpful and delightful waiter is that they are the more americanized versions of central vietnamese food. He encouraged us to come again and ask for the off-menu items or even better, approach the restaurant with an idea of what we'd like to eat and ask for "beef tonight" please (for example) and be surprised with whatever's freshest. We will definitely take his advice. The regulars around us were being served interesting and wonderful looking dishes that were almost exclusively off-menu. We will absolutely be back and with half-price wine on Mondays and Wednesdays this is a nice weeknight dinner location that won't break the bank.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: redgypsy

                            Maybe I missed something on my visit not to long ago. The service was slow and our food was cold when it came out. The servers are friendly when you get to see them. The food is fair and not that extarordinary. The prices are outrageously expensive for Vietnamese food. I suspect it is the highway frontage combined with the square footage of the place (why do they only use half the restaurant?) that raises the prices. I went in with a coupon from the Entertainment Book (did not show it until we paid) and it was still over $40 with a buy one get one. All we had was two dishes, one desert and two iced teas. I fail to see the connection. I usually have 3 dishes at La Me and I get out of there for a bit over $20 (no coupon), stuffed, and I actually got my dish steaming. I think there are more worthy Vietnamese restaurants in the Metroplex that will wow you and won't break the bank!