San Jose - Korea House and Khanh's (Vietnamese)
I'm in the south bay for a 5-week extended stay... have been reading this board for good pointers on how to eat well during my stay, and will try to post feedback here and mentions of any great place I come across which hasn't been recently mentione here...
Experienced a mediocre lunch over the weekend at Khanh's on Winchester, a Vietnamese spot. Went with family, not based on a recommendation from this board. The place has an unremarable pancake-house kind of ambiance. The eggrolls were absolutely fantastic, I could have made a meal of those alone - light, nice balance of meat and vegetable, not too greasy, served with fresh greens. The spring rolls were good but nothing special. Shared a number of other dishes including claypot catfish, vermicelli with grilled shrimp, and a noodle dish with vegetable whose name escapes me. The catfish was somewhat mushy and overly peppery... would rather taste the fish. The grilled shrimp on the vermicelli was very bland, and the salad uninteresting.. was hoping for more herbs and intersting greens. The nuoc cham struck me also as pretty bland. All this said, the Vietnamese families around us seemed to be enjoying their meals more than us, and I have a feeling that the interesting-lloking shared platters they were ordering weren't on the menu. Still, no recommendation for this place, I've had better Vietnamese in Phoenix where I live, so I'm sure one can do FAR better in San Jose (based on posts on this board, I plan to visit Vung Tau while here)
On a brighter note, we had an excellent dinner at Korea House on El Camino Real in Santa Clara. I have not eaten much Korean food and was looking for an opportunity to try some "good" Korean chow. We ordered the Kalbi and Bulgogi barbecue. OK, standard/predictable but from reading reports about the Korean BBQ places on this board I knew this would result in plenty of food with a lot of variety, as a huge number of sides were included. I highly recommend Korea House, service was friendly (if a bit harried/inattentive... very busy waitstaff!). Incredible variety of sides... from very mild to wildly spicy, though the napa cabbage kimchee here was not as hot as I anticipated nor as hot as I've had elsewhere.. my 1-year old daughter tried and loved just about everything on the table, she ate the sweetened bean curd as if it were candy... which I guess it kind of is...
So, a question for hounds who know Korean food... any suggestions on what to order next time to experience Korean food "beyond bulgogi" yet not result in too much food we can't comfortably finish? I detest wasting food hence the narrow order on this visit... the nonstop sides make ordering mutliple things off the menu "to try" seem excesive.
Thanks for 2 great reports! I appreciate the update on Khanh's, I only went once years ago with relatives who ordered for us and thought it was "good enough" but you're right, I've since had far better in San Jose. Besides Vung Tau and all of the other places we went to in the South Bay Vietnamese Lunch Get-togethers, I like Anise Cafe on 1663 West San Carlos (about 10 minutes west of downtown SJ) for Cal-Viet/more upscale small plates cuisine. Asia Moon has been recently praised on this board also. It's practically right next to Khanh's.
For what to order next time for Korean food, my various experience has been that the side dishes, or panchan/banchan, come out in the same quantity whether you order just bulgogi, or bulgogi plus a bunch of other entrees, and then they happily refill the side dishes if your group wants more. So go ahead and order multiple things on the menu. I don't have any recommendations for Korea House since I've never ordered from the menu there, but here's a recent mention of Korea House, which was mentioned in a post about another restaurant on the same street called Han Sung BBQ:
My in-laws are Korean, they love Korea House, so they always order for us. I don't know the exact real names, but here goes. Try one of the jigae dishes; a hot pot/soup dish. You can read the descriptions on the menu and choose one. The one I love has pork, tofu and kim chee and is spicy - great with rice. There's a spicy grilled pork dish, daeji bulgogi, similar to bulgogi. Make you sure you get the lettuce leaves to make wraps with the pork, rice and the panchan (side dishes). Try bibim bap, a hot iron pot filled with rice, veggies and meat. It comes with a hot sauce, you stir in as much as you want. The best part is the crispy rice on the bottom. They have some good fish dishes too. Enjoy, Korea House rocks! PS - if you're a spicy food fan, you might try Hunan Taste on N. 4th in San Jose.
Actually, the crispy rice on the bottom/sides version of bibim bap is dol sot bibim bap. Regular BBB is usually served in a normal bowl. DSBBB comes in a hot stone pot, so the rice (and whatever else is in contact with the pot) continues to cook after they've brought it out to you. If you're a big fan of the crispy rice, some Korean restos offer dol pan BBB, which is basically a large stone platter with the same ingredients. The platter has a larger surface area for the rice to cook on. My Tofu House in SF offers DPBBB, but the ratio of food to price (higher cost than DSBBB) at MTH was bad.
If you like pork belly, order the Sam Gyub Sahl. My non-Korean friends like to call it "Korean bacon", although it's not cured like bacon is. Take grilled belly, swish thru an oil/salt/pepper dipping sauce, then wrap in lettuce (or if you're really lucky, thin rice wrappers which you grill first, which aren't typically offered at most Korean restos) and eat.
Finally, one other dish to consider is the jah jahng myun (hand or machine-pulled noodles with various meat, seafood and veggies in black bean sauce). JJM is more readily found at Northern Chinese/Korean places rather than 100% Korean places.
I actually tried the grilled eel on iron plate and was very pleased with their rendition. I think it was served with sliced cucumbers as well. I know....why order this common Japanese like dish when there are tons of other things to try, but I figure why not :-)
I LOVE their kalbi tang, which is short rib soup with a lot of flavor. Decent enough portion that you won't have leftover but meatwise there was less compared to bones :-/
Last time I was there, they had a grilled salted fish. I forget the Korean and English name but the Chinese characters if I recall correctly had "yellow" in it. Croaker? Anyways I saw this fish available frozen at Kuhje supermarket in Daly City. A little bit too salty but with rice and kim chee and perhaps some soju it will be a great meal altogether.
Should I be able to go next time in a big group I would love to try their spicy seafood hotpots.
Thanks so much for taking the time to report during your trip! I'm just acqainting myself w/ Korean food, and Korea House is next on my to-try list. Alice gave you a link to my recent meal at Han Sung BBQ in Santa Clara. Highly recommended for DIY charcoal grilled meats and other goodies. The short rib, egg, and noodle soup (don't know Korean name) was the standout dish that has continued to linger w/ me...Really liked their chile paste condiment too.
Just in case you missed this, here's a thread on eats in the Santa Clara/Mtn. View area:
You are right on track w/ Vung Tau. Here are reports of Viet restaurants that I and a group of hounds have scoped out in the San Jose area:
If you are into Viet food, then San Jose is the place to be! If I had to narrow down from the list above, I'd go w/ Vung Tau and Dalat. Quang Da if you're into Hue/Central Viet cuisine. Look forward to more of your reports. You might also want to check out the big Asian mall, Grand Century, on the corner of Story and McLaughlin: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...