Vivienne’s Bistro now open on Mercer Island

January 29, 2022 | by Naomi Tomky

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All photos by Brooke Fitts for My Mercer Island

Mercer Island’s long-awaited newest restaurant, Vivienne’s Bistro, softly opened on Saturday, February 5th. Taking over the former home of The Islander, owner Thomson Zhao remodeled the interior into a crisp, bright setting that matches the modern Asian fusion menu from chef Danna Hwang.

Last spring, Zhao hired Hwang, who previously helmed Bellevue’s Peony Kitchen from its opening, as executive chef of Vivienne’s Bistro. But due to long delays from pandemic-related building and supply shortages, she spent the summer heading up China Harbor, the iconic Seattle spot Zhao bought two years ago. Now, the two get to put their own visions to work in the 180-seat space, with white-tiled walls and black-leather booth seats.

Vegetarian noodles

Hwang’s menu shows off some of her signature dishes, including roast duck with caramelized lemon – her take on the classic with tender meat, crispy skin, and a tart sweetness from the grilled fruit – and her version of honey walnut prawns, which come with extra crunch from diced green apples. Along with the Cantonese cooking of Hwang’s birthplace and typical American Chinese dishes like General Tso’s Chicken, she weaves in flavors from around Asia, such as the Vietnamese fish-sauce dip for the egg rolls, Japanese shishito peppers, and the kalbi beef short ribs that take inspiration from Korean cuisine.

Roast duck with caramelized lemon

The wide-ranging menu also offers plenty to those keeping a restricted diet: vegetarian versions of the potstickers and egg rolls share the “small bites” menu with edamame, two kinds of tofu, and sweet potato salad, while larger plates include a savory vegetable “Master Chef Noodle,” and a bright okra and eggplant dish dressed with a fragrant lime juice and basil sauce. Many of these dishes also show up in the gluten-free offerings, along with sizzling rice seafood soup and crispy fried pork belly.

Cantonese cooking leans heavily on seafood, and Hwang shows off her skills with it in a crispy salt-and-pepper shrimp that features beautiful lantern peppers and six other types of pepper, and in the soft-shell crab appetizers. But she also brings big, meaty flavors with her plate of BBQ lamb rack; in the sweet and sour pork chop, which comes smothered in a tangy, fruit-filled sauce and topped with pine nuts; and in the forearm-sized braised beef short rib, served on the enormous bone. The short rib is braised for four hours, she explains, rather than pressure cooked, so the tender meat keeps its texture while the tougher connective tissue melts away.

As with The Islander before it, Vivienne’s Bistro uses the L-shaped front space as the restaurant, with the smaller back room designated as the bar. Hector Garcia, who previously spent 14 years tending bar at the Columbia Tower Club, leads the drinks program, which includes many familiar cocktails, mostly from the sweet side of the spectrum – margarita, mojito, and lemon drop – along with a few originals, like the smoky island: a mix of mezcal, pineapple, orange juice, sweet and sour mix, and a splash of Cointreau.

Housemade bacon with three-color cauliflower and rice cakes

Vivienne’s Bistro is located at 2441 76th Ave SE. Soft opening hours are Wednesday through Monday: 11 am to 3 pm | 4 to 9 pm (closed on Tuesdays).

Get an early peek at the menus and learn more at: