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Cox: Fill up the family

  • A Vietnamese crepe with egg, pork, shrimp and bean sprouts at Kettles Vietnamese Bistro on Steele Lane in Santa Rosa. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

One family after another with kids in tow came into Kettles Vietnamese Bistro in the Coddingtown area of Santa Rosa on a recent night.

Really? Do kids enjoy Vietnamese food that much? The answer is two-fold.

First, the menu isn't strictly Vietnamese, although most of the classic dishes are there. But there's also beef carpaccio, Korean barbecued short ribs, Thai style curry chicken, shrimp scampi, Italian-style fried calamari and a Chinese-style chicken cooked in a clay pot.

Kettles Vietnamese Bistro

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Second, the prices are modest and the portions are big, and young parents can feed themselves and a passel of kids for what you'd pay for one person at a pricier place. Add friendly if sometimes short-handed service by staff in casual clothes, and you've got a winning formula for full-bellied relaxation. The occasional toddler might let out a piercing scream from time to time, but that just made the place seem like home.

The building sits between West Steele Lane and Guerneville Road, just north of the Coddingtown Mall. Once upon a time it was a plus-sized Sizzler restaurant with two dining areas, and there's still plenty of seating.

For the kids, there's fresh-squeezed limeade and lemonade, plus the usual soft drinks. For the adults, an Asian sangria made with wine and tropical fruit juices is a pleasant quencher. Eight white wines costing from $23 to $43 and four reds from $27 to $51 a bottle are available, and every menu item has a suggested wine pairing. Featured drinks included pineapple mojitos and six craft beers on draft.

Three translucent Spring Rolls ($6.50, 2 stars), cut into six pieces, come with a mediocre, liquid peanut sauce that tasted more like bean sauce than peanuts. The rolls were plump and fresh, though, made with vermicelli rice noodles, steamed shrimp and pork, mint, lettuce and bean sprouts.

Scampi in a Blanket ($8, 2-1/2 stars), a satisfying special appetizer, consisted of four big, meaty Gulf prawns and a fresh cucumber slice, rolled in wonton wrappers and deep fried, then served with a sweet red dipping sauce.

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