By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
Classy elegant décor, modern touches, like orange metal chairs and low-hung cylinder light fixtures, live orchids everywhere, and smiley friendly service are some undeniable features that put Oryza Bistro Asiana a notch above your regular mall eateries.
However, the food and drink here is what would keep discerning patrons flocking in, even if the ambience were not as pleasing.
Oryza, located at the Westfield’s Valley Fair Shopping Centre in Santa Clara, is named after the rice genus – the basic grain of Asian cuisine, and dedicated to creating a wide variety of dishes based on Southeast Asian ingredients and cooking traditions, but with innovative influences.
Innovation steeped in tradition is also noticeable at the bar, where a number of creative cocktails are made with sake and soju embellished with ginger, guava, pineapple, and coconut.
On the night we dined, my cocktail of choice was Guava Cosmo with bourbon cherry, redolent with the aroma of pink-flesh fruit.
I had to try my dining companion’s beer and mango puree concoction – The Mango Shandygaff, a chance discovery of the restaurant’s Executive Chef Pailin Chongchitnant, who admittedly got her first taste of this now popular drink by not washing her glass between a sip of mango nectar and a chug of beer.
In addition to an extensive wine list and an international selection of artisanal beers, Oryza offers several enticing choices of non-alcoholic drinks, the star of which gotta be my Lychee Mint Soda, which I found to be an extremely well-thought combination of flavors.
And then the food arrived, all at once, in simple while porcelain, and with designer silverware.
Green papaya salad, a Thai staple, came with peeled grapefruit wedges, grilled shrimp, blanched green beans, and whole peanuts. A special crunch and spice was added by dried shrimp flakes sprinkled on top. Delish!
Buttermilk fried chicken, served in a pool of green curry, was unbelievably airy, delicately battered, and spiced just enough to feel the heat and to enjoy the contrasting mildness of chewy white meat.
I was about to proclaim buttermilk chicken my favorite dish on the menu, but then I tried five-spiced short rib, and had to rethink my priorities.
Meaty, tender, fragrant, and with a hint of sweetness, the beef was festively decorated with steamed bok choy, pickled daikon, and a cut in half soft-boiled egg with a bright orange yolk. It all disappeared from the plate faster than I could say, “love it.”
Since no Asian meal would be complete without rice and noodles, we had to try both.
Spicy basil fried rice is Oryza’s specialty, and is prepared with enough garlic and herbs to make it outstanding, no matter if it served with chicken, beef, or shrimp.
Pad Thai, a traditional rice noodle combination of “everything in the house” came to our table with tofu, egg, fresh bean sprouts, and peanut crumbs, and was as good as it gets.
We were about to skip desserts after a greatly satisfying meal, but got intrigued by the divinely-tasting ginger-infused crème-brulee, and signature Oryza Foster, made with plantains instead of regular bananas, and complemented by coconut butterscotch sauce, coconut ice cream, and sesame brittle.
Those desserts were definitely worth all the extra calories we acquired rather willingly.
Open every day for lunch and dinner, and with a daily happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m., Oryza is a welcome addition to the Silicon Valley dining scene, and is sure to satisfy the most sophisticated palate.
Oryza is located at 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd on the first floor of the Westfield Valley Fair Mall Shopping Center in Santa Clara, and can be accessed from inside or outside the mall between the two Macy’s buildings.
Make your reservation by calling 408.246.8010. For more information visit www.oryzabistro.com.