|This is where the magic happened.|
One Yan-tastic Evening
Weekends during my childhood were pretty standard. My family would hop into our car and drive five minutes to my grandparents' two-bedroom apartment where we would meet up with aunts, uncles and cousins for our traditional Saturday dinner, all of us hunched around a table grabbing fried chicken or serving up slices of thick lasagna while downing ice-cold Shasta.
After dinner, the kids would attach themselves to the Nintendo in the spare bedroom while the adults settled into comfy chairs, just feet from the dinner table, and watched cooking shows, daydreaming about the next family dinner.
We did it all again on Sunday.
This continued for years.
As I got older, I joined the adults in the living room for Great Chefs of the West, the Frugal Gourmet, and Yan Can Cook, starring local celebrity chef Martin Yan.
I sat, mesmerized, as Chef Yan stir-fried meals with lightning speed, played with garnishes and deboned poultry in mere seconds.
Each family member picked up a few tips here and there, and the Ginger Beef with Rice and Sweet and Sour Pork that I grew up on seemed to taste better year after year.
Fast forward a few decades and I find myself shaking hands with Martin Yan himself, making small talk as he whips out his phone to show me video footage from his last trip to Vietnam. Moments later, I witness him completely debone a chicken in under twenty seconds. Dream come true? Absolutely.
Martin Yan is a TV host, world traveler, writer, and restaurateur. Santa Clara is the lucky home of Yan Can Asian Bistro, a true gem in the upscale strip mall of Rivermark Village. It's here where he hosted a Chinese New Year dinner and cooking demonstration, entertaining both young and old with his food preparation skills, culinary mastery and sharp wit. With vast culinary knowledge and genuine courtesy, it's no wonder that the staff feel like one big family.
But, on to the food!
Several courses were introduced to our small, intimate group of diners who made reservations for this event well in advance. With each course, Executive Chef Cory Chen described the ingredients, preparation and suggested condiments (when appropriate) to complement each course.
Both chefs made additional options available for the vegetarians in the group, which, in many cases, meant more meat and seafood for yours truly.
Fresh Oysters with Asian Mignonette tasted as if they had just been plucked from the ocean, and the perfectly caramelized Teriyaki Glazed Scallops were served with unique light and fluffy Potato Pillows.
Subtly seasoned Truffled Ginger and Carrot Soup and sweet Crab Salad rounded out the small plates before the main courses were presented.
I felt honored as Martin Yan himself served me Mustard Beef with Rice and Melaka Curry Vegetables from a large platter, while an assistant offered deliciously salty Fish in Gold Dust (amazing fried battered catfish and corn kernels).
It all culminated in a spectacular dessert of Mango Ice Cream with Grilled Apple and Pineapple.
Eventually, each of us sat back in our seats, reflecting on this multi-course extravaganza and rubbing our full bellies.
Before departing, the chefs and staff graciously posed for photos and many of us took home some of Chef Yan’s merchandise. I left completely stuffed, grinning ear to ear, with an autographed box of almond cookies under my arm. I promptly drove home, mentally crossing an item off of my bucket list.
Thank you, Chef Yan.