There’s “something to please everyone” at this upscale Asian-fusion bistro in “unassuming” Windsor presenting a “mix of dim sum”, Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines “all rolled into one”; the fare is “light and bright” with “flavors” that “just shine”, especially when served with soju, sake and a serious wine list by a skilled staff in a room appointed with authentic Eastern furnishings; P.S. lunch served weekdays only.
San Francisco – Bay Area & Wine Country – Restaurants – 2014
Pan-Asian fare is given the fresh, seasonal California treatment at this Windsor bistro. The menu offers everything: plump, flavorful Filipino lumpia; Chinese dim sum; calamari and prawns in a peppy Cambodian garlic sauce. Thai curries, Taiwanese honey prawns, and even Indian roti prata are also represented, but the dance between the cuisines is elegant and streamlined, not muddled. The entry features a small wine bar that’s great for solo dining, while the modern dining room is marked by red and white barrel light fixtures. The wine list is respectable (thanks to the surroundings); beer and saki or sochu cocktails are also strong. Happy hour, with $5 dishes and drinks, pack in the crowds until 6:20 p.m. on the dot – get there early to savor it all.
San Francisco – Bay Area & Wine Country – Restaurants – 2011, 2012, 2013
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”
The New Asian Cuisine, as the modern re-do of traditional dishes is called, retains some of the features of the old food culture, but updates them in creative, delicious and pan-Asian ways.
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.
From the large plates, we went back to China for the flank steak with organic snow peas ($16), and to Taiwan for the short rib egg noodle soup in Chinese five-spice broth ($17). The slow-braised meat and soft noodles complemented each other well, and the broth was highly spicy, even for those of us who like to break a gastronomic sweat. We moved on to Hong Kong with barbecued pork char su with egg noodles ($17), wok-fried and served with baby shitake mushrooms.
Chinois, just six months old, also serves dessert (we were too full), and hosts $5 happy hour tapas and cocktails from 5pm to 6:30pm on weekdays. It’s worth hitting the road for.
“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!”
“This is a wonderful restaurant; the dim sum sampler is really good — the won-ton soup is out-of-this-world good, quite unlike any other won-ton soup that I’ve ever had; what a great combination of fresh flavors and spice.”
“This is my new favorite Sonoma County restaurant. They have picked delicious dishes from all over southeast asia and beyond, including the dim-sum!; cook it to perfection; adorn it with tasty fresh veggies and to-die-for sauces, and bring it over with a smile. Phenomenal wine & sake list paired specifically for their food; gorgeous teas; wonderful service; we tried it, liked it so much we came the next night, and then came back the next week, and then the next one… ambience is lovely; it will be fun to say in a couple of years, I knew it when… it is sure to hit the "hot-spot" scene in the North Bay.”