365 Restaurants, 2 Kids, 1 Giant Fiasco
I am embarassed to say that we have driven past this restaurant at least a thousand times and have never given it the time of day. A few days ago, we were surfing the restaurant review sites looking for “the best” and came across Zander’s House as one of the top rated restaurants in Plano. Ogre and I were both a little shocked and bewildered. We checked out their website and were impressed with what we read.
Zander’s House replaced August Moon, a Chinese buffet staple that sat in that spot for 25 years. We were surprised to find that it had a pretty “upscale” vibe when we walked in. Our waiter came over with waters and get our drink orders. At that point, any signs of pretentiousness quickly dissolved. He had already thought to bring Mina’s in a cup with a lid. They didn’t have a kids menu or any activites for the kids, but our kids were pretty content to take in the restaurant. There was lots of artwork on the walls and Benjamin was completely enthralled with the huge light overhead.
We planned to get Mina and Benjamin an appetizer to share as their dinner after reviewing the appetizers and then started looking at the soups and those looked so tasty, too. With so many options before us, Ogre and I decide that he and I will share an appetizer, soup, and entree and order something for the kids. Mina says she’d like the chicken noodle soup. I am given the task of deciding the soup and leave it to Ogre to choose the entree. Ogre looks over the appetizers and then punts that to me, too. When our waiter returns to take our drink order, I request the Bánh cuốn, Súp măng cua, Phở gà, and Gà nướng lụi for the kids. What did I say? The steamed rice crepes with pork, the crab and asparagus soup, the chicken soup, and the lemongrass chicken for the kids. Ogre asks the waiter for some recommendations and he suggests the BBQ ribs. I had actually had my eye on that so I am pleased.
When our waiter walks away, Ogre tells me he intended to get the chicken soup instead of the lemongrass chicken. We have some great communication skills, don’t we. Of course, I’m thinking why didn’t he say something when I ordered, but I just said “Ohhh.” A short while later, he comes back with the lemongrass chicken and steamed rice crepes.
Wow! Those little steamed rice crepes were so tasty, they reminded me of one of the dishes we like to get a Dim Sum. It has got a nice “fish sauce” flavor to it. Ogre thinks it tastes like “Asian White Castle.” I immediately think he’s trying to ruin my dining experience again and give him stinkeye. He tells me that it’s not a bad thing. I forget that there are people who love White Castle. Meanwhile Benjamin is totally digging on the chicken. He is dipping it in the peanut sauce and quite content. The chicken came with carrots, so we put a few of those on Mina’s plate. Our waiter brings us the crab and asparagus soup and offers to serve it up for us. Nice touch. While he is serving, I ask him if he is one of the owners. He tells me that his family owns the restaurant. I let him know how pleasantly surprised we are.
Before I can try the soup, Mina decides it’s time for a bathroom break. She and I head to the restroom and it is a very nicely decorated restroom and they didn’t forget the changing station. We come back and Ogre tells me that the crab and asparagus soup is very good. We finish up our appetizer and are working on the soup when Benjamin and Mina’s chicken soup arrives. We request a ladle since the waiter took our other one and he comes back with one and offers to cut the noodles in our soup for us. We say sure and he expertly uses chopsticks to “quarter” the noodles. Pretty cool to watch. We serve it up for the kids and next comes the BBQ ribs. Again, we are pleasantly surprised that it comes with steamed broccoli. That’s definitely a plus for Mina.
The waiter comes by again to check on us and guesses that I am Filipino. He tells me that I will like the ribs based on that. He is right. Man, it is rockin’! Even the broccoli is cooked well! I start to give Benji some of the soup and at first he shudders (it has a lot of lime and cilantro flavor), but then he shakes his head up and down saying, “mo, mo.” He likes it and demands more.
Everyone once in awhile he will point to my fork and say “mah-mah” indicating that it is okay if I take a bite, but mostly he points to the spoon wanting more soup.
We request some hoisin sauce for Mina to dip her broccoli and carrots in and she is able to muddle through her vegetables without an excessive amount of prompting. Our waiter comes over again to see how we are doing and notes that Mina is eating her broccoli. He offers her some gummy bears for when she is done with dinner. Mina likes this incentive. Benjamin has been having a great time at dinner, but all of a sudden seems uncomfortable. Ogre looks at me with grave concern. He says he thinks Benjamin is pooping. Yup, he’s trying to get out of his chair and doesn’t want to set his little behind down. Poor babe. Ogre tells me to go ahead and take him out of his chair. I don’t recall that we actually brought any diapers with us, so I take Benjamin to explore the restaurant a little while Mina finishes up her last few bites of the veggies.
Benjamin and I find an outdoor patio that is quite nice. It overlooks Central Expressway but there is a general lack of restaurants with patios, in my opinion (another thing we miss about Nashville); therefore, again, no points lost . We have a great time playing out there. When it is finally time to leave, Benjamin actually tries to run back! We get out to the truck and thankfully find that we do, indeed, have a diaper. Incidentally, I mentioned to Ogre about the restroom and he says “Cool, i need to wash my hands anyway so I’ll check it out.” When he gets back, he has his eyebrows raised, “Maybe the women’s restroom is nice…” Gross.
Ew, sorry to talk about food right after talking about diapers and restrooms. Food was great! Ingredients were fresh and the food packed a lot of flavor. The rice crepes were firm enough to not completely fall apart, but were nice and soft. I don’t know what to say about Ogre’s White Castle comment, except to say that it is supposed to be a compliment. The sauce is like a fish sauce vinaigrette, so watch out, it’s a pretty powerful flavor. I didn’t try the kids’ lemograss chicken, but judging from the empty dish that was left, I’d say it was a hit with the kids. Our crab and asparagus soup was made with imitation crab meat, but I won’t deduct any points for that. They used white asparagus (we call it spargle like the Germans) and the consistency of the soup was dead-on, not to thick and not to thin. I only had a small taste of the chicken soup and liked it because there was a lot of cilantro and lime flavor to it. I love cilantro, though, so if you are even the slightest bit wary about cilantro, do not try this dish! I was surprised that Mina liked the BBQ ribs because it had a little heat to it. When I told Ogre that I was surprised that she liked it because it was S-P-I-C-Y (spelled out). Mina wanted to know what S-I-C-Y was. Ogre replied, “Tasty,” Yes, we lie to our children.
No kids menu here. I think you’d have to go with selections from the appetizer menu for the smaller kids because the entrees are a little pricey. Ogre did not think the menu was very kid friendly. I found it amusing that he later told me that it might be kid-friendly if your kid is Asian because I actually planned to give this place 4 stars and thought kids would be fine ordering off the menu.
Another good night of service. Our waiter was attentive, checked on us frequently, seemed interested in how the kids were doing and even offered Mina a reward for good eating. This might be the first night that Benjamin did not shed a tear or hint at frustration.
Well, I thought it was kid-friendly, but Ogre disagrees that it’s 4 stars kid-friendly based on the menu. Now, there were no coloring menus or crayons, so if your child needs this, you’d have to bring your own. There are also no deep-fried, standard kids menu choices. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I’ve sort of tired of the same mundane kids’ choices and am quickly realizing the presence of a kids menu does not necessarily equate to a good thing for kids. We did have Benjamin’s MP3 player with us and that may have been part of the initial success. Mina told us that she liked it even though she had to carrots AND broccoli!
Total price: $47.63
I have to give a shout out to my pal, Truc Le, a Vietnamese Pediatric Intensivist and fellow Foodie in Nashville. He taught me this about Pho (proununced Fuh) and I have never forgotten: the marker of a good Pho is the clarity of the soup. This place had nice clear chicken broth. Nice job.
Childsplate.com chronicles our journey to find the perfect family restaurant. We are looking for restaurants with excellent food and a great attitude towards kids, even the whiny, cranky ones! We will be headed out to a different restaurant every single day to provide ourselves (and you) with some entertainment and good information about DFW area restaurants. We hope you will visit frequently and use our experiences to create some fun dining experiences of your own! Watch out, DFW, the Phipps family is going out to eat!