New-ish Vietnamese Pho Place on 14th at Church
- Absonot May 9, 2006 07:20 PM
I think it's called Will's.
Has anyone been? Is it worth checking out?
I believe ChowFun (Derek) posted a review in the past few weeks...I don't recall it being a rave but I think it was deemed passable.
OK, I checked it out by myself tonight. First, the very feel of the place doesn't feel like a pho joint. I can't tell you why...I also don't believe (generally) that restaurants do both pho and other foods really great. Maybe my mom brainwashed me into thinking this...who knows? I can't find derek's post to see what he ate...did he change names?
Anyhoo, I really tried only ONE dish and one dish does not a report make. But what I had was really pretty good. Yeah, I bought the floor show and got the raw beef and shrimp in XO sauce. They flame it tableside and then you get to do the wrappy, wrappy thing (something we didn't do much of at home...). Nuoc mam rocked! It had real flavor and a little kick. No wimpy nuoc cham here. The sauce was great (but not what I imagined an XO sauce to be, never had it before). Really dug my salty lemon drink, very refreshing on a night like tonight.
My only complaints: parts of the wrapper were still a little hard making the rolling a little difficult and the lettuce hadn't been dried sufficiently so kind of wilty. Also they were practically dead which will be dangerous for the freshness of the vegetables in the future.
Service with one HUGE exception is soooo sweet, attentive, and kind. They would bend over backward to make you happy.
The one exception was Will himself. When I walked up to the restaurant to try and read the menu, he was standing right in the doorway, smoking. I had to kind of squeeze behind him to try and read it. He was none too pleased at being made to move. When I politely asked what time they were open until, he barked, "We're open, we're open!"
"Yes, but at what time do you close?"
"Read the sign!"
Well, just where the sign was was difficult to tell because that part of the door was open wide and not visible to the street. He just pointed in the general direction. Normally this kind of beyond reasonable grumpiness intrigues me (think Soup Nazi) so I went in anyway. He does warm up once he thinks you appreciate the food but man! They have got to do better marketing if he is going to block the door and snap at potential diners.
I'm looking forward to going back and trying some other dishes.
I live in the 'hood, I keep meaning to go check it out but haven't yet. I have new motivation though since last night my neighbor mentioned that he really likes Will's and several of his Vietnamese foodie friends who live in Daly City come into the city specifically to eat at Will's. Apparently, their speciality dishes particularly good and worth the trip.
My experience there was only lunch...pho etc. which at the time gave little choice....(no tendons etc) It also has NO condiments at the table..these had to be requested..it does have a more upscale appeal..they only did a modest amount of redecorating from its' previous incarnations (but quite tastefully)
They also were well reviewed this week in a local paper....
Perhaps dinner is the way to go, more interesting choices...I wonder if you can order from the dinner menu at lunch...I'll also check to see whether their menu has expanded.
Honey, he's (in general) right. Most "white people" are not anywhere near the hound that you are and would never try them. I know I am not. If he had 'em, my bet would be he would have accommodated you. But when only one in a hundred customers would be asking for it, he'd be sitting on a bunch of rotten eggs...or would that be chicks because by then they would be born? ; )
Hey..those golden orbs can be frozen for the likes of me,,,and you being the good Chowhounder you are, I'm sure would try them at least once!!! Instead I head off to the Tenderloin...!
Just came back from lunch at Will's..had seafood over crispy noodles which were pleasant but not 'boat rocking" this is basically how I felt about my other excursions there...I wanted so much to LOVE it...it's a 2 minute walk away...it's not BAD, it's just not VERY good...weak pho...and the banh mi had regular thick chewy french bread...not the shattering crust kind.
I'll probably go back to try a few more things, to see if there's something truly worthwhile..until then, it is for me.. just another ordinary Asian restaurant (and we have too many of them) in the Upper Market neighborhood.
I don't care what SF Gate has to say about Will's, but this place is just wrong. I live right across the street and jumped and clapped when I saw that PHO was coming to my neighborhood. The folks there are really nice, but good Vietnamese food 'tis not. We tried a couple of the more traditional Vietnamese dishes-- the broth of the pho was not as flavorful as good pho should be, the garnishings and condiments not as complete. The barbecued pork? Forget about it. We even ventured so much as to have one of their fusion-type dishes. BAD IDEA. I can't even remember what it was I ate exactly; I only remember that the steak and noodle dish I had was lacking in flavor and balance. So sad. Good Vietnamese food in the Duboce Triangle? Could've been a good alternative to my occasional impromptu burrito dinners. But alas, no.
So round two at Will's Vietnamese. I was a very bad hound and ordered dishes that don't really tell you much about a Viet restaurant but these were what I was on the mood for: raw beef salad and garlic noodles with prawns. $10 each. The salad was quite good, only complaint would be I would have prefered that the beef be cut thinner. It's a rather large portion and would be better split between two (I took half of it home then forgot to bring it for lunch, doh!). Here and there a chewy bite but for the most part, good. Will's nuoc mam really made it sing.
Garlic noodles: the last two times I had garlic noodles (Lotus Garden and Mangosteen), they were mushy as all get out. These were not. Nice and firm. The prawns were cooked PERFECTLY. The only thing this dish needed was a little salt. I would probably ask for more garlic next time but I am a garlic whore. Will stopped by the table and said next time I should try it with filet mignon.
Speaking of salt, I had the salted plum soda and it was outstanding. Short of signing over their paycheck, service could not have been nicer.
Walking home through the Mission, I noticed all the mediocre restaurants with way more diners than Will's. It's a shame they are so slow. Next week, I will return and try some other dishes and report back. Don't get me wrong, there are better and cheaper Vietnamese restaurants in the Tenderloin. But sometimes you want convenience.
There may be better Vietnamese in the Tenderloin but not in the Castro or Mission/Noe area, with the exception of Lotus Garden. I was happy to see them get a mention in the Bay Guardian best of issue.