The Coachella Valley is in step with the explosive popularity of Asian cuisine, which over the last 15 years has boomed from a few niche spots begging for discovery to an array of high-end establishments.
The quest for sweet, salty, spicy, and sour flavors that blend traditional preparation with a modern-fusion interpretation are reflected in new restaurants popping up around the valley. East/Southeast Asian fare is no longer a mirage in the desert.
Watercress Vietnamese Bistro
Phong Nguyen knows how to deal with the frenetic pace and high pressure of opening a new restaurant. For years he’s been an emergency room doctor in Redlands. He opened Watercress Vietnamese Bistro in downtown Palm Springs with co-owner/ chef Duc Le as a second location to the original in Redlands.
He says it all began with weekend trips here to play tennis. “I brought people from the Palm Springs tennis community to eat at the restaurant in Redlands, and they asked me to open a location here,” he explains.
There’s lunch, dinner, and the bar-bites menu for happy hour . Classic and original cocktails are made with hand-crafted syrups, and there’s plenty of sake.
Brunch with a twist is offered Saturdays and Sundays: the eggs benedict is served on grilled, sticky-rice patties in lieu of English muffins, and the Filipino sausage lends a distinctively Asian flavor to the hollandaise.
415 N. Palm Canyon Drive
The restaurant straddles the borders of Palm Springs and Cathedral City, and the menu similarly reaches across two adjacent cuisines — Japanese and Korean.
“Umami means savory, so we are all about flavor,” says Isabella Kim, a partner of the family-owned Cathedral City location. The Kim family is not new to the restaurant business, having owned Wasabi Sushi in downtown Palm Springs for 13 years. Both parents were born in Seoul, South Korea.
“We want to keep it authentic with the Korean dishes,” Kim says. “We will have kimchi and also focus on side dishes served family style, as traditional to Korea.”
Bulgogi — marinated, grilled beef — is served on a sizzling plate. There are two versions of the popular street-food dish, bibimbap — rice, vegetables, and beef topped with a fried egg and spicy sauce.
Fans of Wasabi Sushi will be able to get their fix from a variety of special rolls and Japanese- influenced appetizers, teriyaki plates, and noodle dishes.
67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A-105
cie sichuan Cuisine
The prayers of true Chinese food enthusiasts have been answered by Brett Bennett and his wife, Xuemei Chang, who say they offer “the only Sichuan cuisine in the Coachella Valley,” with traditional dishes native to Chang’s culture in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan province.
“Most restaurants in the area serve Cantonese and American-style Chinese food,” Bennett explains.
The menu at CIE Sichuan is extensive, with more than 100 items including house specialties like frog, duck tongue, rabbit, and beef intestines. Bennett says one of the most popular orders has been the Spicy Chicken Wok, served tableside in a miniwok. “Our noodle dishes are getting raves, along with the Spicy Frog,” he says.
Never fear, vegetarians! The tofu and veggie plates are flavorful, too.
Challenge your palate with one of the 25 featured items on the chef’s “special menu.”
45682 Towne Street
Featuring 12 varieties of rice wraps, the Springs Roll Bar debuts as a central gathering spot after Pho 533’s summer remodel, which added 1,200 square feet, including a lounge and expanded kitchen.
Owner Chad Gardner said the Spring Roll Bar is meant “to look and feel just like a sushi bar, with a chef forming them at the bar to order.” Try the BLT Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Surf and Turf Roll, and Mushroom Soba Roll.
The new lounge area features a communal table, and it’s a prime place to enjoy a specialty house cocktail like their Kaffir Collins or Guava Mojito.
Lunch and dinner menus offer traditional Vietnamese favorites like pho and vermicello bowls. The restaurant uses tamari in all dishes; rice paper wrappers are used for spring rolls; and many of the fried items are coated in rice and corn flour, which means they’re gluten free.
Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center
1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 625