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Restaurant Review: Celebrating My Birthday Weekend During SanDai’s First Anniversary in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Restaurant Review: Celebrating My Birthday Weekend During SanDai’s First Anniversary in Walnut Creek, Calif.

  • The culinary gem in California’s East Bay offers dishes spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Indian subcontinent.

I recently celebrated my birthday weekend at Kopi Bar and SanDai, which coincided with its first anniversary. Nestled in the vibrant heart of Walnut Creek’s bustling restaurant scene, the establishment is a beacon of culinary excellence, offering patrons a tantalizing voyage through carefully sourced spices and a fusion cuisine brimming with the vibrant flavors of the Indonesian archipelago. 

It was an absolute pleasure to meet the exemplary chef Nora Haron, who was overflowing with joy to celebrate the first anniversary of her restaurant SanDai. Not only does she possess a warm personality, but her culinary prowess is ingrained in her very genes.

Celebrating my birthday at her establishment was a delight, as I indulged in several complimentary workshops: Coffee art, cocktail making, wine tasting, a Balinese party, and a sit-down dinner with a special tasting menu. 

SanDai presents a modern ambiance, complemented by the Kopi Bar, which reminds me of Kerala with its pronunciation, a place dear to Nora due to her grandfather’s roots. 

Stepping in without trying Nora’s artisanal avocado coffee, and Moringa coffee and sampling some of the most delectable madeleines, cupcakes, and pastries would be a missed opportunity. Nora takes great pride in her coffee offerings, carefully selecting the beans, drawing from her experience at Blue Bottle and Mr. Espresso Coffee. 

The sleek bar area, adorned with fossilized seashells, beckons guests to linger, with Victor, an engaging bartender, ready to craft exquisite cocktails. Our cocktail classes were so immersive that none of us wanted to leave. Chatting with Nora at the bar, as I dipped crisp French fries into delicious Sambal aioli, I learned about the nine exquisite variations she had created, drawing from her family’s culinary heritage. As she talked to me, she was eyeing the texture of the cocktails in beautiful glasses being served to customers.

The restaurant itself is meticulously appointed, adorned with intricate batik stamps from Bali. Nora’s attention to detail extends to the kitchen, where a slab of black stone set to her height ensures ergonomic efficiency, though perhaps causing some adjustment for other chefs, including her three children who work there. 

The private dining room exudes a captivating vibe, with bamboo ceilings and hand-dyed Balinese fabrics bearing Nora’s family motifs. Nora effortlessly blends warmth, hospitality, art, and passion for unique fusion cuisine at SanDai, treating every dish with utmost care and every guest like family.

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The menu at SanDai is a testament to the chef’s ingenuity, offering a mouthwatering array of dishes inspired by her rich heritage spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Indian subcontinent. From succulent tiger prawn satays enveloped in sweet soy sauce-infused sambal to aromatic whole branzino bakar, each dish showcases Nora’s culinary prowess and her commitment to elevating flavors with carefully curated spices. Her dedication to her craft is evident, as she arrives at the restaurant at 8:00 a,m., and leaves as the last one, employing about 16 people and overseeing her children with a blend of friendliness and professionalism. 

I am so glad that her friend and co-owner Amanda Toh Steckler decided to open a restaurant in Walnut Creek because she could not find authentic Singaporean cuisine in the Bay Area.

Participating in SanDai’s first anniversary celebrations was an unforgettable experience, filled with fun, frolic, and, above all, fabulous food. If you find yourself in Walnut Creek, don’t miss the opportunity to make a reservation at SanDai, where you’re guaranteed to be delighted from start to finish. 

With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

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