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Top Hatters Kitchen & Bar opened agilely aftermost bounce on a aphotic residential bend of San Leandro. Even an boilerplate alehouse would accept captivated its neighbors, who are not acceptable to airing the mile to downtown’s Bancroft Avenue, home to Paradiso, at night.
Instead, they’re active abutting to one of the best all-embracing and talked-about restaurants of the year.
Chef-owner DanVy Vu’s restaurant, which she runs with bedmate and adolescent chef Matthew Beavers, defies genre. Its seasonal, from-scratch affable is based partly on the dishes Vu grew up with as the adolescent of Vietnamese refugees. But there’s additionally a nod to Italian food. And the horchata is actively epic.
What it reflects, I feel, is the Bay Area’s diversity, with rustic dishes that you generally see beyond cultures. The brace has additionally accepted the corner’s history. Top Hatters was already a hat boutique endemic by Ted and Marie Lee, who fabricated and awash hats calm for 65 years. As a nod to the Lees, the new owners accept preserved the store’s anatomy and signage, and added hat-themed ability affair to boot.
Here’s our acquaintance on a contempo Saturday night:
THE VIBE: Modern yet homey, with floor-to-ceiling windows and abundant plants of every array dangling from shelves.To access the restaurant, you airing through a massive patio — currently dotted with calefaction lamps, of advance — and into the dining room, with its bamboo-esque beam and marble-topped bar. There, you’ll acquisition affable bartenders, counterbalanced affair and abundant greenery to abet some close feelings. Top Hatters absolutely feels like a getaway.
THE FOOD: Vu calls it barbarian aliment — dumplings, slow-cooked meats and animated takes on artery aliment — but there’s address and best bounded capacity accident here, too. Take the Oxtail & Grits ($36). I grew up with article similar, a Persian adaptation awash with turnips and served over basmati. Vu’s is abstemious with abrupt antique carrots and an orange gremolata that’s fruity and ambrosial after actuality sweet. It was our admired dish.
The Seared Rice Cake ($11) could be a tie-breaker, though. Reminiscent of a accepted dim sum dish, it’s brittle on the alfresco and deliciously adhesive on the inside. The adhering deejay is topped with broken Chinese sausage, broiled shrimp, absurd shallots, pork affection — dried, cautiously disconnected pork — and a dribble of spring-onion oil. Add a soft-boiled egg ($2), bung all that umami advantage together, and you’ll be wowed by the adult textures and flavors.
Those dishes, like the others on the appropriate ancillary of the menu, are absolute for administration with one or two people. The items on the larboard side, however, like the Tissue Bread ($9), a attenuate roti served with pickled cucumbers and dipping sauce, are beneath substantial; adjustment two for a table of four. Overall, abate plates run $7-$14 and the beyond plates are $11-$57.
Plant-based eaters will appetite to get the Melancholia Lettuce & Shattered Crepe Salad ($12.50), or add it to your aggregate plates. It’s loaded with broiled babyish potatoes, absurd shallots and quinoa with a preserved auto bathrobe and bedding of near-caramelized crepes (there’s that technique) that accommodate a wow-factor crunch. On our visit, there was additionally a Cauliflower and Hen of the Woods Mushroom bowl ($15/$17) that was aerial out of the kitchen.
DON’T MISS: The drinks menu, abnormally the hard-to-find Viet Egg Custard Coffee ($5.75), which can be fabricated boozy, and a affluent Haitian Toasted Rice Nog ($4.50) fabricated with attic chrism and spices. Nine ability affair ($12-$13) action a acceptable best of spirits, from mezcal and tequila to brandy, vodka, gin and whiskey. I accepted the basal ingredients, usually three or four, to bigger advertise the affection and flavors in the drinks.
PERFECT FOR: Date night or impressing accompany with a cultural mish-mash of Vietnamese artery aliment and agreeable Italian doughnuts. (Psst, adjustment those doughnuts with negronis at the bar.)
DETAILS: Open from 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday at 855 MacArthur Blvd., San Leandro; https://tophatterskitchen.com
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