San Francisco - Bay Area & Wine Country - Restaurants - 2011
Chinois's owners have cornered the market on Asian cuisine in this neck of the woods (they also own Ume Japanese Bistro), but in this case, monopolies aren't a bad thing. A delightful gem, delivering fresh flavors that are a welcome change from the sticky sweet sauces of other Asian spots, Chinois is Asian fusion without the confusion.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that, the menu proudly hightlights curries from Thailand, dim sum from China, and noodle dishes from all over. It may seem like a tall order to blend so many different styles, but the kitchen executes this task flawlessly. Thanks to its wine country location, the Asian haven touts a respectable list of wines to accompany the beer selections.
“The new Asian cuisine”
A trio of Sonoma County restaurateurs created Chinois to bring us fine examples of the trend, using as much fresh, local produce as possible. Debbie Shu, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, co-owns the place along with her sister Kelly Shu and Chef Chang Liow. The Shu sisters grew up in Taiwan and Liow hails from the Chinese community in Singapore.
Perhaps the dish that best exemplifies how modern Asian cuisine treats its traditional ingredients with a gourmet sensibility is the Steamed Alaskan Cod ($16 ). The chunk of filet is seared, then placed in a parchment envelope with sliced shiitakes and a white wine-based sauce. The envelope fills with steam and becomes puffy. The white fish keeps its sturdy texture while retaining its moisture. The mushrooms and wine sauce enhance the mild flavor of the fish without overpowering it.
While the food is a revelation, maybe the most surprising aspect of Chinois is the wine list. Liow has for several years run a business exporting wines from high-end wineries like Viader, Staglin Family, Whitehall Lane, Darioush and Robert Sinskey to Singapore, and he is also a sommelier of note. He's stocked Chinois' glassed-in wine cellar with some pretty amazing bottles -- more along the lines of wines you'd expect to find in an international hotel than a restaurant in Windsor. There are moderately priced bottles, of course, but how about these rare wines and their rarified prices: 2004 Rochioli "West Block" Pinot Noir, $275; 2001 Vogue Chambolle Musigny, $320; 2005 Pax "Majik Vineyards" Syrah, $200; 2002 Ornellaia, Bolgheri, $354. You get the idea.
To sum up: Chinois serves up-to-the-minute dishes that bring the best of modern Asia to Sonoma County. It's a welcome addition to Wine Country's culinary scene.
The aroma of spices and garlic that wafts from Chinois Asian Bistro in downtown Windsor entices visitors through the door—and down the Silk Road. The ancient and renowned trading route influenced the cuisine of Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Cambodia, the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and is reflected in Chinois' large and varied menu.
The dim sum sampler ($14) features two shrimp and leek dumplings, three pork shu mai and two barbecued pork buns. The dumplings were bursting with fresh leeks and shrimp, and the soft but slightly chewy steamed pork buns were generously stuffed with shredded meat. Shu mai, small dumplings with a flavorful ground pork filling, were another table pleaser, and it was difficult to share two among all of us.
“We love, love, love this place. A little gem in Windsor. The best Pad Thai we've ever had. Great ambiance, wonderful music, and yummy food. I love the selection of dishes and small plates. A definite go-to place in Windsor!”