Late 2006 saw contemporary Vietnamese bistros flower almost as thick as quince blossoms, but none of them matches Vanessa's Bistro for range and subtlety. The small North Berkeley restaurant is a vehicle for chef Vanessa Dang's meticulously calibrated chops. A veteran of Le Cheval, Bridges, and La Rose Bistro, she sends a ripple of Cal-French sensibility through traditional Vietnamese dishes. The bright mosaic of vegetable elements in Dang's Saigon-style sweet-and-sour prawns soup is dazzling, as is the lushness of its tamarind-spiked broth. Scattered with deep-fried shallots and a mince of numbing, anise-like rauram leaves, the chef's cellophane-thin filet mignon carpaccio shows that brilliant Asian fusion can be a matter of technique. With careful textures, even the most traditional dish can seem new and sparkly. And you've got to admire any restaurant whose chef glimpsed in the semi-open kitchen never fails to look chic in makeup and pearls.