FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF INTERNATIONAL DINING
This is where the Ans’ runaway success began, in 1971. Originally started as a means to survive their hurried exodus to America, after the fall of Saigon, Thanh Long has proved to be the corner stone upon which the Ans’ American Dream was founded.
The family story reads like a Dickens novel. It abounds with excitement, romance, heartbreak, mystery and ultimately happiness. From riches to rags and back to riches, so their pendulum has swung. Faith in themselves, a stoic streak of optimism and a printer’s error resulted in the name “Thanh Long”. Rather than being the ‘Ascending Dragon’, founding An, Diana’s original name, a typo inadvertently created the “Green Dragon”. Recognizing that this was a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, Diana, with great foresight, decided to keep the name Thanh Long. Of course, the rest is history, and a sparkling one at that. Crustacean, San Francisco was born from this, followed later with the opening of as second Crustacean, in Beverly Hills.
But this is really Diana’s tale. A humble start, an ingenious menu and “hey presto!” a magical explosion in business as San Francisco couldn’t get enough of the Ans’ special way with Seafood and French Vietnamese specialties. By far and away, the most popular items, from the day they started to now, are the mighty meaty Dungeness Crab, Seafood Dumplings steamed with Lotus leaf with a tamarind-ginger fumet. As the restaurant’s success gathered momentum, other items were added to give the menu an eclecticism that is recognized for its originality and unique flavors. Even the appetizers are so very different and compelling especially the Crab Puffs, a signature dish of delicate puff pastry parcels filled with succulent crabmeat and Comte Française with a peanut mustard emulsion. Or perhaps your fancy runs to the oh-so-very-different, and very light, Ricepaper Shrimp Rolls, presented in a sushi format and guaranteed to start your evening on a high note.
And finally, before you venture out into the balmy summer’s night, fortify yourselves with one of their delectable desserts, pick of which are the fried bananas with house-made ice-cream and the equally irresistible Coconut Flan consisting of Crème caramel lightly scented with coconut and served with a house-made cookie.
Thanh Long—truly a dragon for all seasons!
Crustacean San Francisco
This is indeed “A Woman’s Story.” The family strength of the An Dynasty has prevailed through the most arduous of times with a conclusion that is truly wondrous and the fulfillment of an American Dream. “To the manor born”, the aristocratic Vietnamese An family enjoyed power and privilege and used much of it to the benefit of the community, especially when with much love and passion, they lavished upon their dinner guests, classic world cuisine.
With the fall of Vietnam, they had to endure hardship and tribulation before re-establishing themselves in America, with the opening of the matriarch restaurant Thanh Long in 1971. The word was out and the resounding success inspired the opening of this the first Crustacean, in 1991 and the introduction of their fingerprint Eurasian style of cooking. With more accolades and by now in top gear, they finally brought this epitome of ‘Showomanship’ to the ‘jet set’ palates of Beverly Hills in 1997, with their second, and flagship, Crustacean.
The Ans’ classic taste, majesty and sophistication are vividly illustrated on entering this magnificent, Atlantis showpiece. Floor to ceiling hand-painted seascape murals, neon sea creature mobiles add depth and intrigue to the sparkling ambience. All of this in perfect harmony with a menu that clearly is the glittering treasure at the bottom of this ocean.
Among the signature dishes, and a delight to their regulars, is the roasted Dungeness Crab, scented and spiced to tantalize and sate the most discerning of patrons. Then there are the Royal Tiger Prawns, presented in a butterfly arrangement and served with garlic and the Ans’ carefully blended spices. Of course, as many have come to realize, these are part of the “Secret Kitchen” menu. These items consist of carefully guarded recipes, handed down from generation to generation and cooked in a separate kitchen, the secrecy and wonderful mystery adding much to this ‘fantastique Vietnamese fable’.
Then of course there are the Large Plates, many of which owe their listing to the Ans’ love for international classic dishes. Who can resist the quite heady Stuffed Calamari with prawns, fresh tomatoes and herbs on a bed of vermicelli, or the sensational ‘Helene’s Ravioli, with shrimp, minced garlic and fennel, wrapped in delicate rice crepes in a soy and sesame “beurre-blanc” emulsion’? We think you get the picture!
But the real question is not how long the Ans’ outrageous success will last, but where will be the next location for their brilliantly conceived concept?!
Crustacean Beverly Hills
“Climb every mountain, forge every stream, follow every rainbow, ‘til you find your dream.”
With kind acknowledgment to “The Sound of Music”, the An dynasty has come full circle. In a story that began just before the fall of Saigon and developed in San Francisco in 1971 with the success of Thanh Long, the family’s dream was finally realized in 1991 with the opening of Crustacean in San Francisco and later, their flagship in 1997…Crustacean Beverly Hills.
The aristocratic Helene An, together with her daughters, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Monique continue to enchant and delight the discerning palates of Southern California. Crustacean’s patrons include a list of the rich and famous that reads like a “Who’s Who”.
The arcanum to its worldwide success has to be Helene’s resolve to maintain the mysteries of her “secret kitchen”. The “secret kitchen” is an area kept separate from the rest of the restaurant, where only the An family has access. It is here that all the unique flavors and accents are shaped into the recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Only at Crustacean can you delight in the eclectic fusing of French, Chinese and Vietnamese influences with such original starters as fresh salmon seared and wrapped in crispy filo, with chili soy dipping sauce. Equally as tantalizing are the Puff Pastries filled with Dungeness crab and Comte Française, accompanied with peanut mustard emulsion.
No meal at Crustacean would be complete without sampling the Lite Vegetarian Series menu—no doubt an influence from the founder’s training in herbal medicine, a menu that promotes both health and well-being. We selected the Pacific Rim Style Dumplings consisting of mushrooms, carrots, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts and the Ragout Style Farm Fresh Eggplant with Italian pear tomato andtofu, tossed with the Vietnamese herb, “tia-to”. Be sure to ask your server about the ingredients and the health benefits which each one promotes.
With the Sizzling Whitefish in a clay pot, served with bean sprout salad, and steamed rice and the Chicken Sauté with lemongrass, ginger, basil and bell pepper, our experience turned into a veritable feast. With just enough room left for a refreshing and creamy Lemon Sorbet, our exotic journey had sadly reached an end.