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[whitespace] Daniel Torres and Todd Lauterio
George Sakkestad

Dynamic Duo: Chef Daniel Torres (right) and sous chef Todd Lauterio of E&O Trading Company.

Journey To The East

The Far East just got closer as E & O Trading Company fills its historic downtown setting with voluptuous South Seas spice

By Christina Waters

SMART ENOUGH to hold its own on any gold coast, E & O Trading Company adds more designer dining to a booming downtown San Jose scene. Diaphanous iridescent drapery spills down from a 20-foot sky-blue ceiling in the cunningly decorated new eatery. To match the adventurous Southeast Asian menu--from Bali to Ceylon and back through Malaysia--there's plenty of exotic decor to suggest a turn-of-the-century export warehouse. A forest of giant bamboo hangs suspended over the sleek bar. Silk cords, knotted in graceful Mandarin loops, make a sculpture against a vintage brick wall. An exhibition cooking island holds down center stage, reflected in gleaming hardwood floors and dramatic dragon portals. Wow, this place looks good.

So does the menu. Seated at a plush booth, whose black lacquer table was piled high with dishes in wild colors, we ordered from the imaginative list of homemade beers, fine California wines (none local, however) and strong spirits. A house of India Pale Ale promised to make a heady splash with the high-wattage flavors lining the menu ($2.95 1/2 pint). Lighter in style than expected, it went well with an opening salvo of small plates and satays. The menu, designed in consultation with world fusion matriarch Joyce Goldstein, is rife with Indonesian and Southeast Asian grill concepts laced with gado gado, lemongrass, coconut, nam plah, tamarind and ginger. So when Kira and I decided on a wine to go with the main dishes, we struck gold with a glass of Shenandoah Sauvignon Blanc ($5.95) and a sensational Sobon Viognier ($7.95) layered with citrus, spice and violets.

An instant hit was a bright-blue platter of sticky, crunchy Indonesian corn fritters, all garlicky and perfumed with coriander. It was glorious dipped into an aggressive soy-chile sauce ($4.95). Fresh corn kernels--woven into a filigree of flash frying--had never tasted this good before. Kira went wild over our order of imperial rolls ($7.95), filled with a mix of pork, crab and shrimp. I loved the filling, as well as the fresh cilantro, mint and basil leaves to consume with each bite. But the exterior was overly greasy and the bland coconut dipping sauce needs rethinking.

An order of nan ($3.95) arrived with a zippy tomato herb sauce, but tasted more like pita bread than the ghee-rich nan of Indian cookery. A trio of giant tiger prawn satays ($10.95) came on a bright-red plate--such fun, all these playful serving dishes--with a crunchy triangle of fried noodles (no flavor) topped with zesty slaw (yes flavor). The prawns were expertly char-grilled--moist inside with a sweet/sour soy glaze. But they were heavily smoked. Heavily. The menu--which can easily be tweaked to reflect reality--hadn't mentioned smoked anything. If it had, we would have ordered something else.

Very complicated in terms of multi-culti flavor influences, our entrees held up their end of the dinner-theater bargain.

On a green triangular plate, lavish with a red confetti of peppers, sat a splendid little coral atoll of ahi ($17.95). Filled with sensuously perfumed jasmine rice, the perfectly seared tuna was joined by a cluster of tender, sauteed baby bok choy. Serving ourselves from the main platter, we piled our next wave of bright dishes with the spicy bok choy and dipped the slabs of ahi into a vinegar/chile/coconut dipping sauce that was seriously sensational.

A lemongrass roasted chicken ($12.95) was excellent as well: textbook roast chicken, crispy skin and moist, succulent flesh, served with lovely long green beans and ginger-scented jasmine rice. Two fine desserts made us wish we'd saved more room. A ginger crème brûlée tasted as good as it sounds ($4.95). An imaginative "spring roll" filled with warm banana and studded with macadamia nuts, served with banana ice cream, was outrageously rich, gooey and satisfying ($6.95).

You don't have to be a trader to dine like one--just sail over to E & O and savor the adventure.

E & O Trading Company
Address: 96 S. First St., San Jose
Phone: 408.938.4100
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11am-10pm; Fri. 11am-11pm; Sat. 5-11pm; closed Sun.
Chef: Daniel Torres
Entrees: $12.95-$26.95
Extras: Full bar; décor to die for

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From the October 7-13, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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