Xyclo Vietnamese on Piedmont Ave.
In a bad mood after a rough day at work, I balked at eating the last of our leftovers and convinced my husband to take a drive to Piedmont Avenue to try out Xyclo. I had walked by Xyclo several times, peeking in to admire its pretty interior, but had never gone inside.
My bad mood quickly lifted as the food arrived. For our appetizer, we shared the Nem Nuong Roll, which was excellent. Each roll held a generous piece of flavorful sausage, and the green apple and sheet of lettuce wrapped snugly inside the rice noodle gave everything a nice crunch.
For my entree, I ordered the lemongrass chicken curry. An earlier post had described this dish unfavorably, but I found it delicious. The chicken leg was perfectly tender and juicy, and the lemongrass curry (more like a soup than a curry, in my opinion) had a strikingly nuanced mix of flavors. The slight sourness of the lemongrass was balanced beautifully with the sweetness of the carrots and potatoes.
My husband, on a tofu kick recently, ordered the combination stir-fry: tofu, mushrooms, broccoli, onion, cauliflower, eggplant & zucchini. It was a simple stir-fry but pleasing to the eye and tasty.
In short, the food at Xyclo seems to me like comfort food, kicked one notch up. As mentioned in an earlier post, the prices at Xyclo are comparable to Soi 4 in Rockridge, which has a similar Asian modern vibe.
Service on a Thursday night was pleasing--not too much hovering but attentive and friendly. We will definitely be back, especially since our usual Vietnamese stand-by, Binh Minh Quan, has been disappointing us lately.
Earlier thread on Xyclo:
We've eaten there three times so far and each time it was wonderful. What I compare it to is Vanessa's, which has a much more extensive menu and is more refined, but the flavors of Xyclo are impressive and the room is very pleasant. It's like a stepped-down version of Vanessa's. Best of all are the ribs: crispy on the outside, sweet-spicy with sesame seeds crusted all over them. The Xyclo rolls are delicious, best of the fried bunch to me--a mix of shrimp/chicken/and bean thread noodles. The fresh rolls are good but had more coriander than I like--just not my taste. The bird's nest with chicken is my husband's favorite and the garlicky spicy green beans are wonderful. When eating out with our Piedmont area friends, it's a nice alternative to Vanessa's and spares them the trip over to N. Berkeley.
I recently went to Xyclo for dinner. They always do a good job with the crispy rolls. Anything fried, they do it very nicely. The rolls taste very light.
I have to say I thought the ribs were weird looking when they came out. It wasn't arranged very nicely and I don't recall the taste being amazing. I thought it was just all right.
My favorite was the claypot medley, which really is like comfort food. I would go there just to eat that for dinner and I bet I'd be full.
While the service was nice, I have to say the kitchen seems to be a bit overwhelmed. They didn't seem to bring the dishes when they should come out, bringing out our entree before appetizers and forgetting a soup order and bringing that finally at the end of the meal. And the server didn't even ask us if we wanted dessert.
I think the room itself is nicer, not as fancy as Soi 4 but contemporary. I actually think Xyclo is better as a lunch destination than dinner, but they're still packing them in after almost a year.
Here's my full review with more photos: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...
Been there twice and it was great both times...think of a lower-budget version of Slanted Door.
The Double Surprise rolls are a great combination of cold and hot, crunchy and chewy.
The apple salad is an excellent fresh combination of flavors, nicely presented.
Contrary to some other reviewers, I found the carpaccio quite tasty, although between all the vinegar and capers and spices, you don't taste the meat much.
Garlic noodles are not too heavy but also not very spicy: definitely a pleasant interlude vs. a dish.
Tumbling Dice is Shaking Beef, but for under $20.
To my mind, the standout is the curry fish. It's got that light crunchy texture you only get out of the best Szechuan beef, and a little bit of the taste, though more spicy, less hot, and much lighter because it's not drowning in gluey sauce.
Haven't tried the ribs or the clay pot.
All the flavors were well-mixed and well-presented: you can tell there's a chef at work and not just someone making food. Service is a bit overwhelmed...not bad, just a little slow sometimes, possibly due to success (they're a lot busier than they were).
Eventually it'll get too crowded to eat there and prices will go up, but I'll enjoy it while I can.