The beloved House of An hospitality group recently unveiled its new Anna May Bar at Crustacean Beverly Hills. Named after legendary Asian American actress and fashion icon Anna May Wong, the elegantly decorated lounge offers a casual dining experience with comfortable seating, and an outdoor patio overlooking Bedford Drive.
After opening one of the first modern Vietnamese restaurants in Los Angeles in 1997, Crustacean won numerous awards for its Euro-Vietnamese fusion cuisine. Its sophisticated and stylish interior underwent a $10-million redesign in 2018, keeping the unique glass floor with yellow, orange and white koi fish swimming below. The last time I dined at Crustacean, I met co-owner and executive chef Helene An, who told me that she was raised in the northern region of Vietnam and fled the country during the Vietnam War. She began her restaurant career in San Francisco and soon became known as the “Mother of Fusion Cuisine.” With the help of her daughters, An grew her restaurant empire beyond San Francisco to Beverly Hills.
A few weeks ago, I visited the new Anna May Bar with a friend, and was excited to see An and her daughter Elizabeth at the entrance. They were interested to see what guests thought about the new Anna May Bar menu offering smaller, reimagined classic Crustacean dishes.
Sitting in the cozy indoor section of the lounge, we watched as bartenders poured new cocktails such as the pretty pink Anna May, with Dos Hombres mezcal, Aperol, Peychaud bitters and thick champagne yuzu foam. Beautiful thin gold leaf strips garnish the pink cocktail, which is served in a handsome gold rimmed glass.
The menu also offers a French Champagne tasting flight served in three glasses. One glass has a pour of Möet & Chandon “Imperial” Brut, another Veuve Clicquot “Yellow Label” Brut and the third pink Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne.
It’s all about presentation and sensory experiences, from cocktails to desserts. An told me she believes that food and cocktails should not only look good but should be good for you. She uses the freshest and finest ingredients, rich in antioxidants and immune-boosting ingredients.
We started with salt and pepper calamari served in an octopus-shaped glass bowl. The flavors came alive with a touch of heat from sweet red chili, and a hint of earthiness from the slightly charred scallions on top. The dish was served with a bowl of Thai basil aioli for dipping. For vegetarians and vegan diners, the dish is offered with heart of palm instead of squid. Both are equally delicious.
A fan favorite appetizer arrived in a cigar box. As our server opened the lid, an aroma of smokey herbs wafted around the table. Two perfectly cigar-shaped rolls with wedges of fresh lime were inside the box. The cigars are made with crispy paper thin pastry sheets called Feuille De Brick, which are wrapped around a mix of tuna tartare, Vidalia onion and silky avocado mousse. To make the cigars look even more authentic, Tobiko caviar is placed at one end, mimicking ash.
The next dish to arrive was a hexagon-shaped plate filled with Kagoshima A5 wagyu tartare. Our server used two spoons to mix the tender red meat with a green Rau Rum chimichurri, and cracked a small quail egg on top before sprinkling shredded L’Amuse Gouda cheese. Known as the “Queen of Gouda,” the cheese offers a touch of sweet caramel flavor layered with toasted nuttiness. The delicacy was served with crunchy white rice crackers dotted with black sesame seeds.
Those who prefer a vegan version will enjoy the beet tartare. It looks just like beef yet offers a cleaner taste. It is made with chopped roasted beets, a splash of yuzu vinaigrette, a layer of smooth avocado and vegan caviar on top. The plant-based Zeroe vegan caviar is made from seaweed grown naturally off the coast of France. Fresh edible flowers and sprouting leaves adorn the dish, also served with the thick and crunchy white rice crackers.
The salmon sashimi was simple, delicate and flavorful, with a citrusy ponzu sauce. We really enjoyed the pillowy crab toast squares filled with Dungeness crab and chopped scallions on a beautiful silver serving plate.
When the green steamed vegan dumplings arrived, they glistened with a black truffle chili ponzu sauce on an exciting black and white decorative plate.
An’s yin and yang cooking philosophy is seen in the thick tempura eggplant fries that dazzle with a zing of Thai red chili gastrique, chopped onion and green Thai basil sprinkled on top.
Another winner is her bite-sized chicken tofu meatballs glazed in Gochujang, with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and crispy tempura crunch.
We finished with Dungeness crab legs baked in Asian pesto to give them a flavorful light green hue, and An’s famous garlic noodles. She roasts garlic and adds her secret sauce to perfectly cooked noodles before tossing them in a bowl. We twirled the noodles with a fork and enjoyed the ethereal Euro-Asian fusion of flavors.
For dessert, we enjoyed a plate of puffy warm beignets dusted in powdered sugar dipped in a small bowl of Vietnamese coffee creme anglaise.
Say goodbye to 2022 at Crustacean with special New Year’s Eve menu options, starting with the first seating a la carte menu available from 4:30-6:45 p.m. A five-course prix fixe menu is available at the second seating from 7-8:45 p.m. for $179 per person. An eight-course prix fixe countdown dinner seating from 9-12:30 a.m. is $305 per person. For takeout, pre-order on Tock, or call or text the order to (424)303-8108. 468 N. Bedford Drive, (310)205-8990.
This review was featured in the Beverly Press on Dec. 29, 2022.