Dinette's Thit Kho on Sticky Rice (Braised Pork Belly) is served on a crisp rice cake with a tender interior and topped with pickled papaya and carrots. (Photo by Courtesy of Dinette)
Tamarind spiced wings at the new Dinette are created by tossing fried chicken wings in a caramelized tamarind sauce with sesame seeds and Fresno chiles. (Photo by Courtesy of Dinette)
Cheeky cocktails include the Jean-Claude Pandan ($13) is a coconut milk drink made with rum, vodka and absinthe with the fragrant leaves of the Pandan plant. (Photo by Courtesy of Dinette)
Dinette's Jungle Jack Flash cocktail ($12) is made with Licor 43, rum and tropical jackfruit, pineapple with a squeeze of lime. (Photo by Courtesy of Dinette)
Vietnamese summer rolls are served here with the chef's signature PB & J dipping sauce made with peanut butter, homemade strawberry preserves, and sambal chile. (Photo by Courtesy of Dinette)
One of the large plates on Dinette's menu is their turmeric and dill cod served with vermicelli and a palm sugar fish sauce. (Photo by Courtesy of Dinette)
In a nondescript Heights strip center just off North Shepherd Drive, restaurant co-owners Jason Andaya and Raymond Chan are preparing to open Dinette. Andaya and Chan are the talented duo behind the nearby Japanese handroll restaurant called Hando and Kanpai Club, its next-door bar.
Step inside the 50-seat Dinette, which focuses on Vietnamese food made modern, and you’ll find a tasteful space outfitted with a backlit paneled wall with cane inserts, stylish leather dining chairs and high-top tables that invite communal dining. The new Heights restaurant is opening this week.
Dinette comes with with a sleek bar that brings a twist to retro drinks, shaken and stirred. Each drink is dispensed into fanciful ceramic cocktail glasses in fun shapes from pudgy pandas to white elephants. Sip on tinctures like the BA-NA-NA What’s my Name? ($12) with pineapple rum, fresh banana and pineapple with a sprinkle of cinnamon or the Howdy, Hanoi ($12), bourbon infused with peach tea mixed with orange liqueur, honey, ginger and lemon. House wines and beers, as well as the bracing Vietnamese coffee made with beans grown in Vietnam, are available too.
Chef Cole Hoang collaborated with the Dinette team to create a menu with a selection of small, medium and large plates, each of which encourages family-style sharing. Confused about where to start? General manager Mandy Tran, of Vietnamese descent who grew up in Houston (which boasts the largest Vietnamese immigrant population outside of California), can walk you through the menu.
To start, don’t miss the braised pork belly built on a rice cake base with a crisp exterior and soft interior piled with pickled carrot and papaya and a sprinkle of fried shallots ($7). Next visit, I’ll try the Vietnamese grilled pizza ($11), a popular street food in Vietnam made not with a typical yeast-risen dough but a thin sheet of rice paper, grilled and topped with a fresh egg, pineapple, cheddar cheese and pork belly with a spicy sate mayo.
I already adore the Pho rolls ($12), inspired by the cuisine of North Vietnam. Flat, fresh rice noodles are wrapped around seared steak and fresh herbs like mint and basil sprinkled with ground roasted peanuts and served with the chef’s PB &J sauce, a mixture of peanut butter, house-made strawberry preserves and sambal chile for a subtle, spicy kick. Dinette’s beef tartare ($13), inspired by the Indochinese colonization by the French centuries prior, lives on here with chopped raw steak mixed with the traditional shallots, gherkin, capers and egg yolk with the unique addition of Asian pear and fresh herbs served not with toast points but crispy rice paper.
The snow mushroom salad’s ($11) pretty presentation is comprised of strips of fried tofu, cucumber and carrots in a sesame cracker bowl tossed with a chili-lime dressing. Vietnamese curry, similar to Thai yellow curry, is a mellow earthy dish (one of our favorites here) with beech and shiitake mushrooms bobbing in a flavorsome curry broth with drops of cilantro oil atop cubes of fried tofu and basil with a side of jasmine rice. Large plates include a Texan-inspired pho made with stir-fried brisket but served with “puffed” deep-fried pho noodles.
In the coming weeks, keep your eye out for the opening next door of the Dinette Bakery, which will serve a mix of sweet and savory homemade pastries and the like. Dinette is located at 1018 N. Shepherd Drive.