Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jul 10, 2006 04:29 PM

Vietnamese on Piedmont Ave?

When I was driving down Piedmont Avenue toward downtown a week or so back, I noticed a Vietnamese place with a black awning on the left hand before the theatre (I think). Any info (it's not Mekong)? Also, has Cesar's opened yet?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I live nearby Piedmont ave and have not noticed this Vietnamese restaurant that you speak of. I'll take a look sometime soon. The last time I walked by CEsar's, about 1 week ago, it still was not open.

    1. The Vietnamese restaurant (Xyclone, or something similar, I think) is where Valerian Cafe was, and I believe is owned by the same folks. Valerian was a crummy pseudo-Italian restaurant that was there for many years and went from mediocre to inedible over the last couple years. As the owners are Vietnamese, I'm hoping this will be better (although, it's hard to imagine it being worse).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Hunicsz

        Just to clarify, Xyclo is not owned by the same family who ran Valerian. There are a few of the same staff members (including one member of the family who previously owned the property), but ownership is totally autonomous from Valerian.

        I look forward to trying Xyclo soon - there are so many places opening up on Piedmont Ave. right now.

      2. hello, my first attempt to reply either got misplaced, lost,deleted, so if someone finds this info in an inappropriate place, pardon me.

        The name of the three week old Vietnamese place on the block between Fenton's and the movie house is Xyclo, I think, which if I'm not mistaken refers to the tri-cycle pedicab/transport used in the region. Cafe Valerian, its predecessor, went back a couple of decades, and I didn't know it had Vietnamese owners for that entire time. We ate there last night. I don't consider it in the same vein as the places in oak-c-town, Int'l blvd., or on Larkin in the city, but more comparable to Soi4, the cali-thai place on College Ave, the prices and 'vibe'/decor are similar, respectively higher and fancier than most of the other places, with smaller portions.(bowls of pho are $6, we didn't try any, but I wouldn't expect the same bounty as the pho joint offerings) The food is slanted to the mainstream cali-palate, within an acceptable range to my palate and preference, ignorant as I am on 'authentic' in this context. There aren't any containers of sriracha or condiments on the tables; the rolls we had came with a tiny smear of rooster sauce on the plate, which I think they needed.

        We were favorably impressed with the freshness and quality of the ingredients, and the tenderness of the meats. Our main course was a mix of beef, pork, and housemade fresh sausage, accompanied with noodles, sprouts, mint and cilantro with lettuce leaves to wrap it all. Compared to a similar dish I tried at Binh Minh Quan, I liked the flavours and tenderness of Xyclo's better. We had sencha tea of good quality, its astringency complementing the food well, served in a nice Japanese iron pot. The tableware had a nice heft, with attractive colors and glazes.

        I think it's a good addition to the dining options on 'the ave'; I don't expect a destination type of place showing up in this part of Oaktown(sorry, Gregoire), and I'll wait and see if the mini-expansion of Dopo improves the crowd jam there (reverse consequence, like new freeways that attract traffic paralysis?) We need to try Mekong(different approach, I expect, Cambodian?) again to assess if xyclo is even the best rep of the region's food on the street. cheers

        1. Went to Mekong years ago and was profoundly disappointed. My memory is vague, but flavorless and dry are the words that spring to mind. I'd love to hear that it's better now, but if not, I'll keep driving to 8th Street.

          I have not yet tried Xyclo. Prices seem to be in the Nan Yang/Soi 4 area, which will be fine if it's good (but I'd prefer cheap and tasty). Saw one of the staff eating a large plate of the Vietnamese "Carpaccio" at lunch when I wandered in to snag a menu. It looked good, and as it's one of my favorite dishes I will be trying it soon. Dunno why cashews would be an improvement on peanuts, but I guess they have to justify the prices. They do a two course lunch for $10. I scanned the dinner menu. Here it is:

          XYCLO Roll - chicken, mushroom, taro, glass noodle, fresh lettuce, cilantro, mint, cucumber and nuoc cham 7

          Crispy Shrimp Roll - shrimp and taro wrapped in thin rice paper, fresh lettuce, mint, cilantro, and nuoc cham 8

          Tao Roll - tofu, shitake mushrooms, fresh lettuce, cilantro, jicama and carrots served with a special peanut hoisin sauce - served crispy or soft 7 (v)

          Goi Cuon Roll - poached shrimp, rice noodles, green apple, fresh lettuce, cilantro, mint, cucumber, and crispy shallots served with peanut sauce ornuoc cham vinaigrette 7

          Nem Chua Roll - specially cured top sirloin beef, rice noodles, fresh lettuce, cilantro, mint, apple, and nuoc cham 7

          Double Surprise Roll - Xyclo roll, lettuce, mint, green apple, cilantro, cucumber, and nuoc cham 9

          XYCLO taste (roll sampler) 17

          GREENS & SOUPS
          XYCLO Salad - grilled chicken, fresh lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, carrot, green apple, and Xyclo vinaigrette 9 (v)

          Fresh Apple Salad - sliced Fuji and Granny Smith apples, raisins, grapes, jicama, Napa cabbage, nut, and citrus vinaigrette 9 (v)

          Sweet & Sour Dill Soup - fired fish cake, pineapple, tomato, and asian dill in a sweet and sour broth 6 (v)

          Wonton Soup - chicken and shrimp filled wonton, mustard green in a light broth 6

          Pho - beef or chicken noodle soup 6

          Bird Nest - chicken, prawns, broccoli, cauliflower, napa cabbage, carrot, and onion on a bed of crispy noodles 12 (v)

          Bun Cha Hanoi - pork and shrimp grilled sausage, barbecued pork, rice noodles, fresh lettuce, cilantro, mint, and peanuts
          served with nouc cham vinaigrette 14

          Garlic Herb Noodles — fresh egg noodles, garlic, herb, parmesan cheese, and crispy caramelized shallots 7 (v)

          SMALL PLATES
          Mussel Martini - mussel, rau ram, chili, nuts, roasted onion, and sesame rice cracker 8

          Seven Elements - lettuce, ginger, lime, dried shrimp, cashew, shredded coconut and chili served with a sweet coconut chili sauce 8 (v)

          Vietnamese Carpaccio - thinly sliced top sirloin beef topped with sweet basil, red onion, cashew nuts, rau ram, caper, and caramelized shallots with a light lime vinaigrette 8

          Salt %n Pepper - choice of tofu or prawns tossed with dried scallop confetti 7-10 (v)

          Saigon Devil Wings - petite chicken wings in a chili garlic caramel glaze 6

          Fish Cakes - crispy fish mousse served with pickled vegetables 7

          LARGE PLATES
          Mango Basa - pan fried white fillets, served with a mixed vegetable mango salad 15

          XYCLO Chili Ribs - crispy ribs, peanut, sesame seed, and mixed herb glazed in sweet chili sauce 14

          Tumbling Dice - New York steak cubes and sauteed and shaken with garlic and onions atop a mix salad with balsamic vinaigrette 18

          Lemongrass Chicken Curry - chicken drum and thigh, sweet and russet potatoes and carrots braised in a Vietnamese coconut curry 13 (v)

          Claypot Rice Medley - prawns, chicken, broccoli, mushroom, cauliflower, and rice; slow cooked in a clay pot 14 (v)

          Combination Stir-Fry - tofu, mushrooms, broccoli, onion, cauliflower, eggplant, and zucchini 10 (v)

          Five Spice Chicken - grilled chicken, garlic herb rice pilaf, raisin, nuts, herb salad 12

          Tamarind Jumbo Prawns - jumbo prawns with tamarind sauce 15

          Spicy Green Beans 5
          Sauteed Vegetables 5
          Steamed Tofu 5

          2 Replies
          1. re: lexdevil

            Xyclo was good when I went, especially the various rolls (we got the sampler plate) and the Bun Cha Hanoi. The one thing we didn't enjoy was the lemongrass chicken curry -- the sauce was tasty, but the chicken pieces were fatty and difficult to cut and share, and the pieces of white bread that garnished the dish didn't really do anything for us either.

            I'm sorry you had a bad experience at Mekong Gardens. I've always enjoyed my meals there -- especially the fresh rolls and the rice flour crepe. Their clay pot dishes are good as well. The food is very simple, so I could see some of the BBQ'd meats might not be that interesting.

            1. re: kath

              I can't remember what I had at Mekong (it was YEARS ago), but I expect I ordered things that I love at Phnom Penh House. I know I had a fish dish that was a bomb. Perhaps I'll give it another try. It would be nice not to have to drive to Chinatown.

              As to Xyclo,I've now had the Pho, which was good, but not great. The broth is not very beefy, but redolent with star anise. When you get it take away (as I did) it comes w/ lime, basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, and a small container of hoisin sauce mixed with sriracha. One time it was just raw beef, another time (at lunch) there was also some braised beef (seemed like flank). It was better at lunch than at dinner. While a less swanky place might have better pho and lower prices, at $6 this is a well priced and filling meal for Piedmont Avenue.

          2. We went last week for dinner. I don't eat chilis and the staff were very accomodating. We shared the lemongrass curry dish, the tofu vegetable dish and the apple salad. The prices seemed a little steep for the portions and the setting. Maybe I felt I was still at Cafe Valerian. Also all the tables were very close together, so you were part of everyone's conversation. The food is nicely presented; but the plates are too large and overwhelm the small table. The best was the curry. The apple salad and the tofu stir fry were okay.