New San Jose restaurant District 7 Kitchen features Vietnamese fusion from Three Seasons chef John Le

Photo courtesy of District 7 Kitchen
By Laila Weir - Published on October 22, 2020.

After months of pandemic-driven lockdown, all too many area restaurants and local retail have been closing their doors permanently. But diners venturing out to eat under Santa Clara County’s newly lowered risk assessment will find a new eatery to enjoy in San Jose.

Chef John Le — whose Three Seasons restaurants in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Walnut Creek were popular dot-com-era hot spots — has opened a new contemporary pan-Asian eatery in the heart of San Jose’s Vietnamese community, reports the Mercury News.

Called District 7 Kitchen, the restaurant is named for the neighborhood where it’s located. San Jose is “home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam itself,” according to SanJose.org, particularly the District 7 area.

The name and location highlight the heritage that informs Le’s innovative cuisine. “Chef Le traces his interest in the need for a pure, organic approach to food preparation to his childhood, when he would witness his mother and grandmother artfully preparing the family dinner in his native Vietnam,” says the District 7 Kitchen website.

"[Le] would watch in awe as both women handpicked fresh vegetables and herbs and carefully inspected grains of rice to ensure their quality.”

The Mercury News reports that the Kitchen’s menu builds on some of the dishes that Le created for his first restaurant in San Francisco two decades ago. “I wanted to honor that history by connecting the two ventures with the cuisine I created during that period,” Le says, according to the paper.

The menu features Asian-inspired street food/small plates, including spider rolls with mango and pickles, turmeric-dill tilapia taco wrappers, and shrimp and pork crispy rolls. Dinner entrees include roasted sea bass ($29.50), filet mignon and potato fries ($20.95), and “dancing” tilapia ($19.50). And fans of Le from two decades back may recognize his seafood potstickers and hoisin lamb chops.

Santa Clara County recently moved into California’s "Orange" tier for reopening, representing a reduced pandemic risk compared to previously. This change means that limited indoor dining is allowed, as of Oct. 14. The county’s new rules permit indoor dining up to 25 percent capacity.

For the moment, though, Le told the Mercury News that he’ll continue with outdoor dining only, while the warm weather holds. “When it gets colder we probably will open up indoors,” he told the paper.

District 7 Kitchen is hosting a five-course wine-pairing dinner this Saturday, October 24 at 6:00 p.m. More information is available at the restaurant’s Facebook page.

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