Walking into E&O Trading Company in Larkspur Landing practically induces culture shock. Its grand perpetually mood-lit room, stylized Southeast Asian decor and dining spaces divided by hanging beads are a far cry from its generic low-slung outdoor mall location—or from most Marin restaurants, for that matter. But for locals who are shopping, seeing a movie or just looking for festive dining, the West Coast chain’s Marin outpost is a pleasingly exotic retreat with decent, moderately priced Southeast Asian cuisine.
Even though I occasionally drop in here for lunch after a yoga class, I can’t help but think of E&O as a party restaurant. With ethnic lounge music coming from speakers built into the two-story pumpkin-tinted walls, a huge full bar, and a unisex sink area in the bathroom, it feels clubby—like a perfect place to make an evening of shared plates washed down with cocktails or wines from the surprisingly diverse list.
The menu, overseen by chef de cuisine Edwin Cabrilla-Torres, favors sweet and salty flavors and certainly seems geared to a good-time scene. Edamame glamorized with gorgeous black shiso salt is easy to share, as is the Indian-style flatbread roti paratha accompanied by yogurt and a spicy dipping sauce of sweet chili sauce and spices, though the latter is so irresistibly buttery and flaky you may not want to.
Plenty of diners feel similarly about the Indonesian corn fritters: fresh kernels bound in a light batter and glistening with fryer grease. They’re wonderful on the eye but too rich for my tastes—even before they’re dunked in sweet and spicy soy sauce.
It’s hard to go wrong with chicken satay—especially when it comes with such thick and creamy peanut sauce—or spareribs rubbed with brown sugar and basted with a mango-mustard glaze. Larger dishes like Vietnamese shaking beef or Thai seafood clay pot are equally easy to enjoy family style, especially paired with sides of rice.
Diners preferring subtler, lighter flavors will find respite in the seared ahi salad with Asian greens, cucumbers and ponzu dressing. The ahi tartare is also a more delicate alternative; unfortunately, during my visit it was bland and served with wonton chips that were past their prime. Yet most such culinary missteps are made up for in customer service: every time I come here it’s apparent the staff really cares about providing a good experience.
Desserts can be hit and miss. The chocolate silk cake delivered on its velvety promise, while the Hot Bangkok Sundae arrived cold. No matter: if you’ve got a designated driver, one of the best ways to end the evening is with the Tiramisu Martini, an ingenious invention by bar manager Ronaldo Rodriguez that tastes uncannily like the classic dessert. True, it departs from the overall Eastern theme, but if you’ve made it this far with the Southeast Asian fantasy in the middle of Larkspur, you can suspend disbelief long enough for a side trip to Italy.
E&O Trading Company, 2231 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur; 415.925.0303;
eotrading.com. Lunch and dinner daily; small and large plates $7–$25.