Banh beo & banh cuon, Tay Ho, Oakland - any reports?
Any recent reports on banh beo or banh cuon at:
Tay Ho Restaurant
344 12th St (@ Webster)
Oakland CA 94607
A mention back in June 2004:
Jan 2007 mention:
Had dinner here with a larger group last week, and was pretty happy with everything. The dinner menu is much more extensive than the lunch menu. We had:
Tay Ho fish sauce wings - people loved these. Perfectly fried and seasoned, slightly funky but mostly just deeply savory.
Eggplant with prawn - everyone loved the silky, smoky eggplant sauced with chopped shrimp - we had a lot of pescatarians in the group that night, so they accommodated us by leaving out the usual pork. I'd have to say that I prefer the oilier, spicier Cambodian version at Phnom Penh, but can't really make a fair comparison until I try the Tay Ho version with pork.
Banh xeo - super light and crispy crepe portion. Definitely the best I've had in Oakland Chinatown.
Vermicelli with escargot - I never had an aversion to snails until I started gardening, and now they completely gross me out. These snails, however, had been removed from their shells, and were cooked to a perfect, almost crisp texture, like really good fresh abalone. The spicy broth was delicious.
Cha ca La Vong - fried catfish flavored with turmeric and fried dill, served with rice paper wraps and herbs. We'd somehow missed that we were supposed to wrap the fish with the herbs and rice paper and ate it straight. It was still good.
Garlic fried rice and basil fried rice - both were really good. The texture of the rice was exceptional - shiny, very slightly sticky, with separate grains, and enough browned bits to satisfy the crispy rice lovers.
Hot pot with seafood - they start off with a really good broth, which gets richer with the addition of the proteins and veggies
I'm eating lunch there pretty regularly now, and while the #10 is still my favorite, I also really like their Bun Cha Ha Noi (grilled pork patty and sliced pork in sauce served in a bowl, with noodles, herbs and veggies in a separate bowl, to be mixed to taste) and Mekong Noodle (shredded pork - they don't advertise the shredded pork skin, but it's in there - with rice vermicelli, coconut milk, and nuoc cham) - BC Deli stopped offering this dish, so I was really happy to see it here.
Had lunch there for the first time since the management change. The inside is much more appealing than before - the pungent smell that used to pervade the space is now gone, and everything's gleaming (there used to be a faint, sticky film over everything). I don't think they made any major changes in terms of furniture, paint, etc, but it's transformed from a nondescript hole in the wall to a really attractive, airy space with lots of plants.
The menu seems longer than before - I thought Tay Ho was a chain, with a universal menu, but I think they've added a few dishes of their own. I had the Bun Bo Tai, which I don't remember being on the old menu - I ordered it spicy, figuring that I've never had anything at a Vietnamese restaurant that was too spicy for me. I think the heat was from fresh bird chilis, because it didn't seem initially all that hot, so I added in the additional jalapenos on my herb and veggie platter. After a few minutes, the heat started building, and eventually got too hot for me to finish the broth (which was light but good - I couldn't detect any MSG). The noodles were a perfect firm-tender, and the herb plate included ram rau, fish mint, spearmint, and a wedge of Meyer lemon. The menu has a picture guide to Vietnamese herbs, which to me telegraphed both an openness to Vietnamese food newbies, and a committment to authenticity (well, maybe Meyer lemon isn't Vietnamese. But I bet it came off someone's tree, and there's also a little line stating a committment to local, seasonal and organic whenever feasible).
Service is warm and enthusiastic. I'm really looking forward to making this place a regular on my lunchtime rotation.
2895 Senter Rd, San Jose, CA 95111
re: Ruth Lafler
Craving banh cuon with all the fixings, I stopped into Tay Ho today for an early lunch to go. Usually I don't report on take away meals since they can suffer from packaging and travel, but I was compelled to give the banh cuon a shouted WOW here.
I went with the lunch item #10: House Special Banh Cuon Dac Biet ($8.25), which comes with the wood ear mushroom and pork, dry fried ground shrimp, and plain banh cuon. The rice flour sheets are made fresh in house and were the perfect texture: translucently thin without falling apart under a chopstick grip, and yielding the exact amount of chew before releasing between the teeth. The basil, cucumbers and blanched bean sprouts were packed separately in a small sealed bag to contain any released liquid, which was thoughtful. In addition, they included a spread of tasty cha lua (pork loaf) that had been pan-fried on the exterior to give it a browned outer edge and texture contrast. These were topped with the requisite fried shallots. Two shredded sweet potato fritters added crunch (they were still perfectly crisp when I got home, much to my relief) and sweetness. These were so delightful I was glad to have some portion control here. There were two wedges of banh cong (mung bean and shrimp fried balls) that I discovered after initial bites. These were a bit too glutinous to the point of being mushy for me. They could have suffered from travel since these were buried. I do prefer a distinct outer crunch to the banh cong and more mung bean. Finally, there was a small square of appropriately sweet and sour nem chua (fermented pork or beef terrine). All in all it was a lot of food and completely satisfied my craving.
The nuoc cham was balanced...not too sweet or salty. Be sure to try the house-made chili sauce, which was redolent with fresh ground chili flavor and a sharp bite. I'm definitely holding onto the rest of the little container to use very soon.
The folks working there were very friendly and the food was ready in 5 minutes while I was offered tea or water. Granted it was 11:15am and there was only one table eating in the restaurant. To respond to Ruth's comment, I was happy to see Lagunitas Little Sumpin' and New Belgium's Ranger IPA (there were other offerings, but those would be my choice!) offered along with 33 and Saigon beers. They also serve Urban Legend wine, from Oakland's Urban Legend Cellars. I haven't had it, but like the local representation. I also saw the line on the menu that they use organic and local whenever possible, as daveena noted.
I'm looking forward to try more of the menu and have a proper sit down meal there, and would love to hear what other people recommend!
This is my favorite Vietnamese in the area. Their Vietnamese crepe is delicious and not greasy, just add the nuoc cham. Their noodle soups are great too - so far I've had their seafood noodle soup and bun rieu, both have excellent flavor that makes you want to drink every last drop of the soup. I also like the house special #10 that you reported on. Next on my list of items to try is Bun Cha Ha Noi. I haven't had any bad dishes yet, so I'll continue to explore their lunch menu.
re: Robert Lauriston
The owner, whose mother does the cooking, is fairly young and she happens to like wine...and being a supporter of the east bay, well, Urban Legends. The Urban Legend wines are pretty good across the board. And very nice folks too.
I've only eaten here once, but did have a conversation with the owner about her love of Urban Legends Rose...which Traci and I loved too.
We keep meaning to go back together - Traci's been back a few times with some of her friends.
While in Oakland Chinatown this afternoon, had a craving for Bún riêu, a soup with vermicelli, tomato, crab paste and shrimp. Stopped by Tay Ho faintly remembering that they had it on their menu.
They were closed and several workmen were laboring on a remodeling. A sign on the front door said that they would reopen on August 30th. There was also an application for a liquor license for a new applicant, Denise Huynh.
I'll go back in a few weeks and see what's up.
First visit (although I did get an order of takeout banh beo one day when I was craving chwee kueh and figured they were the closest thing).
I had the #1 combo - bahn cuon (the first layer was of filled rolls, topped with a sheet sprinkled with ground shrimp, topped with a third layer consisting of loose piles of rice noodle sheets), slices of pork loaf, a few fried mung bean/shrimp cupcakes, and a few shrimp/sweet potato fritters, plus shredded cucumber and mung bean sprouts.
I liked the fritters the best. I appreciated the texture of the noodle sheets, but there's something about the way the meat is seasoned that I don't like... maybe it's the kind of fish sauce they use? I'm not afraid of funkiness... I love fermented crab paste and Epoisses and brescianella... but there's something to this funkiness that really doesn't do it for me.
I'd actually ordered the #5 but accidentally started eating someone else's #1 (we were with a large group of coworkers, not everyone had arrived, and I had no idea what anything was, so I just started eating. Luckily we're all friends.) #5, the Thanh Tri style bahn cuon, was just piles of plain noodle sheets, plus a few slices of pork loaf, and a few fritters.
I didn't love the banh beo I'd ordered before either, although that may be more a matter of personal preferences than a reflection on whether or not the banh beo were any good... I ordered them while I was craving chwee kueh, Singaporean steamed rice cakes with a savory topping of fried shallots and pickled mustard, and I thought banh beo might come close to approximating them... they didn't, and that's not their fault. I will also say that I think I'd like these dishes more if the shrimp weren't quite so finely ground - at a certain point, I think they lose their flavor, and all they seem to contribute is color and gritty texture. I like whole small dried shrimp best.
Another discussion that I found on the Chains board:
Tay Ho's website, with picture menu (unfortunately, the Oakland branch does not have a picture menu. If it did, I wouldn't have eaten someone else's lunch.):
Tay Ho Restaurant
344 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607
I moved here from the Little Saigon. I went to the Banh Cuon Tay Ho on Bolsa all the times. Never had a chance to visit this one in Oakland, but heard so many good dishes serves in this restaurant. Finally, my friends and I went there for lunch. Parking is difficult here compare to South. Luckily they validated 1 hour from the China Town Parking Lot. It is a walking distance, but worth it. It considers large and roomy compare to the one on Bolsa, that only have five tables there. I know this place is well known for banh cuon, but wanted to try sometimes different. Most of the dishes serve large and small and only 50 cent different. I tried the Com Tam Suon Nuong add Ga Nuong. It turn out pretty good, not alot of places made their meat juicy and favorable. My friend had the Bun Rieu add OC. Oh boy, it tastes so good, can't find everywhere taste like this in Oakland. My other friend ordered the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong. They separated the veggie on a small plate. I think it is a good idea, because some people don't eat veggie. We also got this Bot Chein(rice cake pan-fried with eggs and dipped it with the special sauce), it taste exactly what I remember from Vietnam. I couldn't find it down South which taste like this either. I will go back again soon to try some others, I am sure it will surprise me again.
Since Banh Cuon Tay Ho is a chain that spans 2 states, my and other's reviews from March 2006 were posted to the General Board (the place for chains back then). I dug it up here it is:
I haven't been back since then, but it's fairly consistent/unchanging from what I hear and am guessing given it's a chain.
Overall I agree with zippo the wrapper texture is only ok to good, not great, but they get points for having lots of house fried shallots, and the fried fritter of julienned sweet potato with shrimp is really good. They also get points docked for the weak nuoc cham sauce.
have been there twice this year and I think that it is worth a visit. The buon cuon (rice noodle with pork) is not nearly as good as the buon cuon at the late lamented Hung Ky on Jones in the SF Tenderloin. They did have a baked and fried muffin with green bean and with shrimp (#10 - Banh cong - Special Shrimp Tempura with Green Bean?) in it which is also available in some of the delis nearby (Cam Huong on Webster?). Also had yam fries, a shredded yam shoestring-style and then fried (#9- Banh Tom Chien Khoai - Special Shrimp Tempura with Yam?). Hadn't seen that before at a Vietnamese restaurant.
Each table has a large quart-size pitcher of homemade fish sauce that I used liberally to dip some of the fried appetizers. They also have a special that has several kinds buan and greens on a single plate if you want to get a taste of as many different dishes as you can.
Have not tried the soups but did see several tables with bun rieu, noodle soup with tomato.
The servers were very responsive to my questions about their food and when I couldn't decide between two dishes, he offered to make up a plate with 50/50 of each without extra charge.
Again, the banh cuon did not have the delicacy of Hung Ky (who does?) and the tempuras are a little on the greasy side, but I liked this place and saw things there that I had not seen elsewhere in downtown Oakland, or SF, for that matter. It's worth a couple of visits.