The latest venture from Anne Le Ziblatt—proprietor of Palo Alto’s Tamarine—comes to Redwood City. Nam Vietnamese Brasserie is the latest upscale Vietnamese restaurant from Le Ziblatt, who aims to elevate the region’s Vietnamese offerings without giving diners sticker shock.

Le Ziblatt is the daughter of Nhan Huynh, the owner of the Zagat-rated Vung Tau, which has been a staple in Downtown San Jose for 35 years. Her newest endeavor, Nam, is billed as a “fine-casual” restaurant, as it blends elements of fast-casual (ordering at the counter) and fine dining (high-touch service and quality cuisine).

The menu is a single, curated page. The food side features several soups, grilled items and sides to satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike. The drink side is quite impressive, as it sports everything from green teas and Vietnamese iced coffee to fine wines and craft beers on tap—including Pliny the Elder.

At a recent Nam-hosted media event, I was impressed with the restaurant’s signature menu item, Nam noodle soup (Hu Tieu Nam Vang)—an homage to her mother’s South Vietnamese roots, which blends Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese cuisines. The broth is a smooth, clear blend of chicken and pork stock, which cradles tender chunks of pork, juicy cooked prawns, rice and noodles.

As for the grilled items, the beef onion rolls stood out for their salty, sweet and garlicky flavor; I like that their grilled items can be served on one of three bases: rice, noodles or salad.

The sides were equally impressive, and their rendition of a spring roll might be the best I’ve ever tasted. The rice paper was delicate, yet firm, and filled with a fork-tender pork belly, which paired beautifully with the shrimp and herbs.

Nam Vietnamese Brasserie opened Feb. 25 and currently offers limited dinner hours (Tue–Sun,  5–9pm).

Ice cream maker Salt & Straw is set to open their second South Bay location at Valley Fair mall on March 12. Their first is in downtown Palo Alto. They are renowned for their imaginative flavor pairings, such as coconut milk, cashew brittle and panadan; black sesame brittle; and even bone marrow and smoked cherry. They pride themselves on crafting a unique menu for each new location to showcase regional flavors. I’m hoping for some creative fruit flavors leaning on apricots, peaches and prunes. Fingers crossed.

Another Japanese ramen import is opening in the South Bay. This time it’s Ippudo Ramen, which opened up their third Bay Area location late last month in Cupertino’s up-and-coming Main Street mixed-use retail center. They’re known for their Hakata-style (thin, quick-cooking) noodles and a rich tonkotsu broth that takes nearly two days to brew. However, Ippudo offers more than just delicious noodle soup. Their pork belly bao bun melts in the mouth; their fresh Goma Q appetizer features a knockout sesame dressing; and their hojicha (roasted green tea) pudding with a salted caramel sauce deftly combines salt, sweet and earthy flavors. They also feature top-flight sake, such as Tennyo No Mai, which goes great with pork.

After nearly seven years in Downtown Palo Alto, SoCal-based Umami Burger shuttered its University Avenue location after evidently losing their lease. There are now only two Bay Area locations (in San Francisco and Oakland) where local Umami fans may enjoy the chain’s savory burgers, “messy” fries and the UFO—a tempura-fried, chocolate-filled oatmeal cookie.

Steins Mountain View is hosting their seventh annual Homebrew Contest this month. This year’s theme will be “Visionary Beers,” and judges will be on the lookout for the next revolutionary beer flavor. Submissions must be in by March 21, and the winner will be announced during the Steins anniversary party on March 28. Check out their website and Facebook page for rules and details.

The James Beard Foundation announced this year’s semi-finalists for their 2020 awards. Out of the 30 Bay Area representatives, only two—David Kinch and Avery Ruzicka—hail from the South Bay. Both nominees are affiliated with the three Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos.