It’s natural to think that S Restaurant is named for its owner, Stephanie Dinh, an exceptional chef who founded the restaurant in 2005 with her husband, Sonny Nguyen, on the outskirts of Westminster Mall. But that thought would be wrong.
S is roughly the shape of Vietnam. Dinh remembers learning that fact in geography class as a young girl and years later, she has used it in the restaurant’s name. An understated, elegant décor – lush bamboo trees, colorful oil paintings and giant light shades reminiscent of the hats peasant women wear in her country – compliments the cuisine.
The restaurateur and baker – she also owns Final Touch Bakery and a Vietnamese bakery, both located in Westminster – first came to California in 1978. She graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a computer science degree in 1986.
For four years, she worked at Northrop, unhappy with her choice of careers. After much study she and her husband entered the bakery business, and she was on the way to her ultimate dream of owning a restaurant.
“I love the business, and I’d always dreamed of someday having my own restaurant,” she says. “This for me is the dream come true.”
Today S is Orange County’s only Vietnamese fine dining establishment, Zagat-rated and favorably reviewed in many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Included in the eclectic lunch and dinner menus are authentic Vietnamese, Asian-fusion and some French-influenced dishes.
Favorites include cha gio, fried Vietnamese spring rolls filled with a tasty mixture of crab, shrimp and pork. Ca ri ca, Chilean sea bass in a spicy curry coconut sauce served with lime cilantro broken rice, and bo luc lac, Vietnamese shaken beef, diced and sautéed filet mignon in a garlic, shallot and sweet onion sauce, are two of the most popular entrees. Dessert includes traditional Vietnamese cassava cake with a twist: Dinh serves it warm, with coconut tapioca and a scoop of coconut ice cream.
“We are pleased that people are finding us a good place for special occasions, as well as for nights out together,” Dinh says. “We love seeing the same people coming back again. We’re glad to have made good friends.”