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Nov 7, 2006 09:53 PM

Best Vietnamese Around 16th & Val/Mission and Church & Market?

Sunflower is OK for pho, but the last time I ate there for some reason the broth wasn't hot enough to cook the meat at all, and it kind of put me off. I do like rare, but not dead cold raw. I haven't tried that newish Will's Vietnamese in the accursed Mingo's (etc., etc.) location on 14th. just north of Market. Is it any good? What is your favorite Vietnamese in that general vicinity, Inner Mission/Safeway Gulch.

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  1. I think Sunflower's bun ranks among the best in town. I agree that the pho is only OK.

    You might have mentioned all of the options in the area; I can't think of other Vietnamese places in that small area besides Sunflower and Will's. Elephant Bleu on 16th near Guerrero closed. I haven't tried Will's.

    13 Replies
    1. re: david kaplan

      There is a brand-spanking new place called Bodhi, which replaced The Window on Valencia between Duboce and 14th. I haven't been in yet, but it can't be worse than The Window. Perhaps I'll go tonight...

      There is another Vietnamese place next to Yum Yum House called Thanh Tam. Nothing special, but it's cheap.

      1. re: dunstable

        Where is the Yum Yum house - I know I've seen it.

        1. re: niki rothman

          It's on Valencia near 17th. I really like their food.

      2. re: david kaplan

        I was thinking there were a couple or so more on Val & Mission but I haven't walked around there recently and was hoping to make a trip soon - just could not remember what was where.

        What buns at Sunflower?

        1. re: niki rothman

          Bun (not buns) is Vietnamese vermicelli salad: room temperature rice vermicelli noodles with lettuce, herbs, pickled carrots and daikon, and some kind of meat and often fried imperial rolls, served with a fish-sauce-based dressing.

          1. re: david kaplan

            Sounds delicious. I've got to try the bun. Sounds like something I could whip up at home too.

            1. re: niki rothman

              In my experience, bun doesn't lend itself well to home cooking unless you cook Vietnamese food regularly. Bun uses relatively small amounts of numerous ingredients (pickled vegetables, fresh herbs) and deep-fried imperial rolls. Bun makes more sense to prepare in very large quantities so the ingredients can be assembled and prepped in bulk. Luckily, it's a standard dish at most Vietnamese restaurants. My local bun favorites:

              Yummy Yummy
              Bodega Bistro

              (BTW I don't ever order anything else at Sunflower or Sai's; bun seems to be one of those items that is sometimes very good even at places where most items are unexceptional.)

              1. re: david kaplan

                I'm very much looking forward to getting the bun at Sunflower. Does it come in more than one flavor or is it just generic "bun"?

                1. re: david kaplan

                  I can't remember any bun I've ordered anywhere having pickled vegetables. Are you thinking of something like bi bim bap at a Korean place? Bun is actually extremely easy to make at home.

                  1. re: Atomica

                    No-- it's completely different. Much lighter, and it should just be shredded carrots and radish, pickled lightly in vinegar. Other things that a good bun dish should always have: roasted peanuts, and sliced cucumbers.

                    1. re: butter

                      Yes, the lightly pickled carrots are often the difference between a transporting bun and a meat salad, in my opinion.

                      Vermicelli salad is easily made at home, but my favorite grilled pork and imperial roll bun is definitely something to order out. I've had mediocre food at Sunflower but will return for good bun.

                      As for Will's, I have a fantasy that a fabulous Vietnamese cook has fulfilled his dream of moving to the Castro and is doling out wonderful food. But the location just hasn't been convenient, somehow I'm always rushing by in a car.

          2. re: david kaplan

            I absolutely love the sea bass at Sunflower. That, and an order of the chicken/shrimp crepe is a great dinner for two.

          3. The mission is kind of a wasteland when it comes to chinese and vietnamese food, but that said I usually go to Thanh Tam when I really need a fix. I've never been to Will's. Thanh Tam is okay. THe chicken noodle soup is good. I seem to recall that the Beef pho was kind of boring but I prefer the heavily spiced broth with a lot of anise, etc flavor to it. I prefer this place to Sunflower, but have found the com dishes to be kind of greasy and of poor quality. Stick to the bun and the chicken soup and the vegetarian items and you will get your noodle fix.

            1. Went to Will's (14th @ Church/Market) last night with the VSO. We had the fresh "imperial" rolls, an appetizer of "deep-fried grilled" calamari, the bo luc lac, and a green curry with eggplant, snow peas, and dofu.

              The rolls were perfectly standard and served with a nice sauce with a bit of chili to it. The calamari was without question the star of the meal. I don't think it had been grilled at all, but was absolutely perfectly done; tender, flavorful, and accompanied by a nice lemon juice and salt/pepper dip. Quite similar to your classic salt/pepper version in some Chinese restaurants (the wait staff spoke only Cantonese, not Vietnamese it seemed). Truly excellent. The filet mignon was very nicely done, with asparagus and carmelized onion over some undistinguished but otherwise edible noodles. The only disappointment was the curry, which was really in Thai style and with quite greasy tasting eggplant although the sauce and other bits were quite ok.

              Service was attentive if rather lackluster. The place was less than a quarter full. It was about 7:30 on a Friday night so perhaps if they are not pulling in more than that it might not last so long, but all around, for what we ordered, it deserves more custom. I would prefer it to Sunflower (which is anyway a much longer walk for us). The interior is undistinguished, but friendly enough. About $57 for two including rice, two 33 beers, tax and tip. Cheers.