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Kim Huong, Hue-style Vietnamese, opens 3/22 in Oakland Chinatown

  • z

Was strolling through Oakland Chinatown at lunchtime this afternoon and noticed a new Vietnamese restaurant at the northwest corner of 10th Street and Harrison with a sign saying that it would open tomorrow, March 22. That corner, a few doors east of Shan Dong, has been the site of several nondescript Chinese restaurants over the years.

For a few seconds, I talked to a young woman, maybe 13-years old, who responded affirmatively when I asked her if the cuisine was Hue-style or Central Vietnamese. I did ask if they might have banh khot, a mini-crepe with shrimp, but she didn't seem familiar with it or maybe my pronunciation mangled the term. It looked like a family-run operation and it's their first restaurant

I did pick up a take-out menu and some highlights are:
- Bun Bo Hue (Hue style rice stick soup spicy) small 4.95; large 5.95
-Pho Ga Kim Huong (boneless chicken rice noodle soup) small 4.95; large 5.95
-Banh Cuon Cha Lua (stuffed noodle roll with sliced pork) 4.95
-Banh Xeo (crepe) 5.95
-Yum Nam (mixed preserved pork w/herbs & chili pepper) 5.95
-Cha Muc Chien ( fried squid cake) 4.95

In addition, there is a large selection of beef and chicken pho, bun and porridge.

The space looks like it is an upgrade from the previous operations and is now somewhat stylish but certainly not upscale. Looks like it could be an interesting addition to that area.

Kim Huong
304 10th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

tel: 510-836-3139

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  1. That's great news!

    I recently traveled North to Central Vietnam and experienced so many kinds of dishes different from what we typically see here in the US (which I assume are mostly Southern dishes). We had the Banh Khoa (a crepe with a savoury filling accompanied by salad and a peanut-based sauce) at Lac Thien, and I'm anxious to try it again.

    1. Is this the location that changed hands last year (used to be Happy Families)?

      1 Reply
      1. re: S U

        yes.. and i think it used to be Four Seas(?) years before that.

      2. This is *great* news. Thanks for the reconnaissance! I can't wait to try out this place.

        1. This afternoon had lunch at Kim Huong and was surprised to find a wait of about 10 minutes at 12:45 pm. They have 19 tables and a few seats at a small bar and almost all were occupied. The interior is an improvement over the Chinese restaurants that have occupied that corner over the years and the mint green paint on parts of the windows, pillars and ceilings reminded me somewhat of the color scheme at Mangosteen on Larkin in San Francisco but without the colonial-style fans or the stainless steel of Mango.

          Ordered a large Bun Bo Hue, Hue style rice stick soup (spicy) for $5.99, one of their "Chef's Recommendations." Hadn't had it before and I'll leave it up to others to say whether their version is up to snuff. There were several cubes of pork blood, chunks of fatty pork trotter and slices of a pork (or fish?) loaf with pepper. Accompaniments were bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, lemon and a slice of jalapeno. There were slices of onion with the soft, bun vermicelli noodles in the spicy broth that had a reddish tinge. Unfortunately, my palate isn't sophisticated enough to tell if the lemongrass and collagen flavors had been allowed to sufficiently cooked to meld in the soup but it seemed pretty delicate and tasty to me even though it did need to be hotter.

          There were lots of bowls of Bo Bun Hue on other tables along with rice plates with steamed chicken and appetizers of fish cake or fried squid cake with dipping sauce. Service seemed a little hit or miss.

          I want to go back and try the Bun Rieu, thin noodle soup with tomato, crab paste and shrimp.

          3 Replies
          1. re: zippo

            The bun bo hue was really amazing. I went down to Kim Huong a few weeks ago, mostly because I wanted to try it. I, too, could have gone for a spicier rendition, but it was quite tasty.

            And the place gets crowded. I managed to beat the noontime crowd and get a table, but I could see some people standing there for over twenty minutes waiting for a place to sit.

            1. re: zippo

              Went and had the Bun Rieu today - it was ok. Round thin rice noodles, mild red broth, toppings were surimi, fish cake, fried tofu, shrimp, egg drop, cubes of pork blood, scallions, fried shallots. Mint, shredded cabbage, limes, jalapenos, and bean sprouts on the side.
              My problem with it was this persistent sweetness I wasn't able to adequately balance out with chilis and lime - not from sugar (I don't think) - maybe from the crab paste, and the mint? It's the kind of sweetness that stops me from being able to eat a whole Dungeness crab. I kept adding more lime juice, and it would be ok for a few bites, and then it would be too sweet again.

              So far, the Bun Bo Hue is my favorite here... and that chicken salad (which was less successful as take out - it was overdressed and watery when I got it as take out).

              1. re: daveena

                I agree, the Bun Bo Hue is probably the better of all the various soup noodles offerings.

            2. Had a late lunch on Easter and it was still pretty busy though winding down at 3pm. The menu is a fairly standard pho/bun/com collection with a about 10 appetizers, including cha gio and fresh rolls, as well as chicken salad and yum nam. Prices are slightly lower or comparable to other places in Chinatown/International.

              I had mi bo kho- they used egg noodles more like linguini than other places' Cantonese style thin noodles. The beef stew had more body and slightly more seasonings than competitors like Pho Hoa Lao 1&2, Pho King. Pho Ao Sen has better body but is not as nicely seasoned. It is not as good as the old owners of New Pagolac on international but better than the current ones. (I like a thicker stew with strong, multiple spices beyond the beefy richness).

              The place is indeed fairly inviting compared especially to Pho Hoa Lao II on the same block. I will return to try the yum nam and chicken salad, amongst other things.

              At the moment they are offering a free glass of soda.

              2 Replies
              1. re: twocents

                Visited twice more. They close early, 8 pm I think. Traffic definitely winding down after 7 pm on a weekday. Other visit was Sunday afternoon around noon. Full, and when we left an hour later there was a line almost out the door.

                mi bo kho is definitely very nice, ordered both these times, but the second time they had gone over to the more common chewy cantonese style egg noodles. But again, excellent flavor, with body and good seasoning. I like that they include ample carrot and daikon pieces along with the beef. Too few places do this.

                I tried to order yum nam both times but they didn't have it. I wonder if it is just a tease.

                The chicken salad is a great deal, a huge portion at $5. Standard Viet style shredded cabbage and a little bit of chicken dressed in a mildly sweet nuoc mam. Includes some sliced jalapenos and various herbs- cilantro and one of the ones I don't know the name of. Really good.

                The Hainan chicken rice is an ample portion of yellow chicken broth cooked rice, mildly salted without much other spices. Pickled carrot, daikon and cabbage are on the side, along with a bowl of their nice chicken broth laced with scallions and a bit of lettuce and a poached chicken thigh. The chicken is strongly flavored in the Chinatown style (free range or rooster or something) slightly pink in/at the bone and somewhat chewy, though not at all dry. Comes with two sauces, a cilantro/ginger/salt/oil and a chili/fish sauce/garlic/sugar. Both good. A steal at $6.

                All in all very good flavor and value.

                1. re: twocents

                  A couple of more recent visits for me, and I have to reiterate how much I enjoy it. In contrast to singleguychef and dezzersf below, I prefer it to Pho Hoa Lao II up the street now, though I have to emphasize that I rarely order pho, mainly mi bo kho. Bo kho here is tops, second only to Kang Nam Pho right now in my opinion.

                  I also had the bun bo hue and liked it very much; I agree with others' descriptions in this thread.

                  I have tried to order yum nam many times, but they never have it. I am interested in this since becoming a fan of Champa Garden's version of this salad.

                  Chicken salad here remains a favorite.

              2. I visited Kim Huong a couple of times. It's nice to have another lunch option in the area for my work days. The restaurant is a step up in decor but not overly fancy, still very family style. (FYI, seems like everyone working at the restaurant speaks Cantonese.) But I wasn't wowed by the food. The large orders are definitely huge and the prices reasonable, but it's slightly better than Pho Hoa Lao II right across the street. I wouldn't run to Kim Huong but would drop in now and then. I would definitely recommend the chef's special Bun Bo Hue (pictured below in the reddish broth) but stay away from any seafood dishes because the shrimp doesn't seem very fresh. Also interesting to note as that it's been open for only two months and already the menu has several items blackened out and they're not offering any more. Wonder what they were?


                6 Replies
                1. re: singleguychef

                  so is Pho Hoa Lao II your first choice for pho?

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    I like Pho Hoa Lao and it's typically where I go in Oakland Chinatown. If anyone knows of another better pho place in Oakland, I'm willing to try. I can't say I've tried them all. I purposely didn't try the pho and Kim Huong because I wanted to see what they had that was different, but I might try their pho to compare. It's definitely cheap.

                    1. re: singleguychef

                      I was only asking because Pho Hoa Lao II is my favorite in Oakland. When you try the pho at Kim Huong, please let us know how it compares.

                      1. re: DezzerSF

                        OK, so I did a comparison of the pho at Kim Huong and Pho Hoa Lao II. I wanted to see if they were much different and I have to say the better pho is Pho Hoa Lao. I tried both in one day to make sure I could really do a side-by-side comparison. Both the noodles and soup are almost identical at both places. Where they differ is the meat that they put in the special combos. In Kim Huong, they had these rubbery meatballs and the thinly sliced meat were cooked by the time the bowl reached the table. But at Pho Hoa Lao, the meat was still slightly rare. The bowl is smaller in Pho Hoa Lao, but that only means everything's a bit crowded in the bowl, doesn't mean you get less food. Both charge $5.50 for the small but they differ on the large. Kim Huong is the better deal at the large at $6.75 compared to $6.90 at Pho Hoa Lao. I also noticed that Pho Hoa Loa is still pretty popular with lots of people going despite Kim Huong opening up.

                        More about my comparison here (including photos): http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

                        1. re: singleguychef

                          Wow, thanks for the enlightening review!

                          1. re: singleguychef

                            We went to Kim Huong this week and enjoyed it. Large portions, very reasonable prices, and friendly service. The food was good, if not spectacular. We noticed one of those official signs in the window "Transfer of owner, 6/29/07."

                  2. I tried the Pho here today, not sure if the reported change of owner has anything to do with it but the pho wasn't very good, to say the least.

                    Broth - Dark & OILY. Definite clove flavor but not overwhelming. Hard to get past the oily broth.

                    Beef - Pale, pre-frozen variety. Some slices were stuck together, but nonetheless tender.

                    Noodles - Soft and came clumped together.

                    Garnishes - Fresh jalapenos, basil, raw sprouts, and lime wedges.

                    My last visit to Pho Hoa Lao II a while back wasn't that great either. My current favorite in Oakland is Pho Hoa Hung.

                    1. Has anyone tried the banh xeo or banh khot here?

                      Kim Huong
                      304 10th Street, Oakland, CA

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        My last meal here - probably around the time of DezzerSF's last post - was so bad I've refused to go back since. No idea if things have changed since, but I'm guessing that since they're still advertising the "bento boxes", it's the same owners. I was flabbergasted when Kim Huong was the only Oakland Chinatown restaurant listed in last year's SF Chronicle's Bargain Bites list. At least they got dropped this year.

                        I haven't tried the version at Tay Ho, but that would probably be my pick for a group this size - I also like their banh canh with pork trotter soup.

                        1. re: daveena

                          Thanks for the warning, guess I'll scratch that idea!

                          Wondering if there are other Hue/Central VN places in the East Bay.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Speaking of Hue places, I was impressed with Ngoc Mai in SF's Tenderloin. Good Bun Bo Hue, Banh Xeo, and Hu Tieu.

                            Ngoc Mai Restaurant
                            547 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                            1. re: DezzerSF

                              I went here again a couple months ago, I think in August. If I recall correctly, this restaurant's first year was turbulent, with a number of menu and ownership changes, and a rash of graffiti and broken windows, and I stopped going.

                              That said, I ended up here in a group at someone else's suggestion. They got bun bo hue which was okay, and I got bo kho, which seemed like an only slightly stronger pho bo and had the somewhat odd addition of lightly cooked carrots and peppers. Carrots are actually fairly common, but more cooked.

                              Both dishes were okay, not terrible, but don't compare with the better examples in the area. (I was trying to put together and extensive bo kho report, but didn't finish).

                              However, I had the raw beef carpaccio (salad), drizzled with some kind of dressing, fried shallots, and thinly sliced lime, and thought that this dish was quite good. Maybe not enough to draw me back on it's own, but good.

                              I didn't look to see if they had my old favorites, the chicken salad and hainan-style chicken rice.

                              1. re: twocents

                                I like that the food is pretty homey, and appreciated the depth in their stocks.