Lam Huong, San Pablo
Tuesday night I got stuck in traffic again, so took a break off hwy 80 at Lam Huong Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant (1237 International Market Place, San Pablo, 510.215.9336, 7:30am-9pm, 7 days a week). When the owner told me that he was from Vietnam, I skipped over the Chinese dishes on the varied menu. Beef noodle soup is listed on the business card and pho is featured on the wall board, so I thought I'd start with something basic and ordered the combo plus a fresh lemonade.
This had beef balls, rare steak, well-done brisket, tripe, and tendon. No basil was offered, instead some very fresh and frilly cilantro, plus slices of fresh jalapeno chiles, lemon wedges and bean sprouts. The bean sprouts were fresh but overly mature and many had sprouted tiny leaves which were bitter. The broth was very flavorful and deep and topped with bits of scallion. The rice noodles had a clump in the middle and didn't stay firm for very long, suggesting that they'd been standing around for awhile. The beef balls and steak were in good form, but the brisket and tripe tasted tired, and the tendon had little flavor. I suspect that this place doesn't get that much turnover on these items and keeps them in the refrigerator too long.
The owner was so sweet, I didn't really tell him what I thought of the food. As I mentioned, the broth itself was fine and indicates some care and skill in the kitchen. Maybe there's a gem to be found here with careful ordering. Otherwise, the prices here are the same as elsewhere in the East Bay and there's no reason to seek this place out.
Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with the pho there, Melanie.
I've had the pho there a couple of times -- love the broth, and never had the problems (especially with the noodles) that you mentioned. I've only been there around lunch time, though. Maybe at the end of a slow day they have stuff they've let sit too long -- too bad!
sorry to hear that this place didn't pan out to be better....there is a Chinese/Asian vegetarian restaurant in the same International Market Place that I've heard some good things about but haven't tried myself. And I noticed that the Supermarket has opened a hot food/dim sum section. The San Pablo Marketplace is similar to Ranch 99 but not as well kept ...produce section is a bit sad and the fish area not as clean as Ranch 99. The selection of dry goods is pretty broad, though.
re: gordon wing
The guy at Lam Huong was so nice, encouraged me to come back. It's hard to judge a place based on only one dish. I thought I'd picked his best thing. There is something that might draw me back. The counter has photos of the special dishes and the one of the Vietnamese crepe looked very good.
I've been to Vege House, link below.