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New Restaurant in Berkeley Report - Anh Hong (long)

nicedragonboy Jan 29, 2008 11:13 PM

So I passed by this restaurant about a week ago not realizing that TGI Sushi had closed down and a new vietnamese restaurant had taken over the space. Finally was in the area tonight and decided to give it a try.

Finally walking up to the door I noticed two things, 1) they've remodeled the space a bit (looks much nicer), new floor/decor/paint and converted the central sushi boat area to a central bar w/ flatscreen TVs overlooking the restaurant. 2) it was completely empty at 5:50pm. I know it's a little early, but still. Not a good sign.

Being the only customer in the place, I got treated pretty well and found out some info. They opened up for biz on 1/9/08 and the place is the newest branch of the Anh Hong family mini-chain of restaurants in the bay area and so-cal. The chef, named David was trained in the French Culinary Institute I was told and you can see some of that influence in the dishes. Though subtly. The menu is still in flux I was told, but the menu is primarily built around Bo 7 Mon (7 courses of Beef). There are also many other options including traditional and non-traditional vietnamese soups, salads, appetizers, rice dishes, sauteed antrees and noodle dishes. No pho though. And there's a decent drink list of sodas, teas/coffee, wines and beers, decent and inexpensive but nothing spectacular.

On to the food. Since it was cold and drizzly all day, I really wanted a soup and while I was initially disappointed that this new Viet restaurant didn't have the pho I craved, a good option turned up. Mi Anh Hong (Combination Rice Egg Noodle Soup).$8.50 description: Combination of Shrimps, Squid, Crispy Wonton, Chicken, and Bean Sprouts in Miso & Sweet Pork Broth. And I wanted to try one of their appetizers, which all looked appetizing. I asked Dan my server about it, mentioning I wanted to try something new. He figured that I was pretty familiar with the usually Vietnamese restaurant menu the suggested I try the Tuna Tai Chanh (Tuna Garlico Jalapeno) $10 for the small order and $18.95 for the large. description: Tuna Sashimi in Tai Chanh Sauce with Garlic and Jalapeno. I rounded out the meal with a glass of Pinot Grigio. $6. No dessert.

My wine came out first, a very generous pour, slightly chilled, of Coppola Presents. Not an expensive wine to be sure and not my favorite Pinot Grig, but it went well with the meal that came.

The Tuna Tai Chanh was a totally new dish to me, at least in the context of a vietnamese restaurant but it was wonderful. Nicely presented on a white plate, it came with I think 8 or 10 slices of good sashimi quality tuna. drizzled with toasted garlic, mild sliced jalapenos and topped with slices of red onions it sat in a small pool of "tai chanh sauce," which i guessed to be a tart nuoc mam ot sauce with a dill garnish. Whatever it was, it worked for me. I polished this off and enjoyed it immensely. The tuna was very fresh and went well surprisingly with the tai chanh sauce. I would've preferred hotter jalapenos but my tolerance is a little higher than most folks.

The Combination Egg Noodle soup came out soon after I finished the tuna and was pleasantly surprised by the quantity. It came in a large white curved bowl that seems to be popular with modern vietnamese restaurants nowadays. The soup was topped with big pieces of very large peeled prawns, butterflied squid, and crispy wontons which turned out to be of the seafood paste variety (probably shrimp) and green onions. I was actually most intrigued by the soup broth itself and tried it out first on its own. It's good. Distinctly different from any other noodle soup broths I've had. light, definitely miso-y, but feels like a vietnamese soup, if you know what I mean. Flavorful, but not overly salty. Definitely has my approval. The rest of the ingredients were fairly standard for this type of dish though I can say the quality was noticeably better than your standard vietnamese restaurant I would say. The shrimp and squid were cooked nicely and still retained their crispness. The noodles and the bean sprouts lurked underneath to round out the dish. A very pleasant meal and quite filling. I was too full to finish off all the broth, though I certainly wanted to.

I definitely can't wait to go back to try the 7 courses of beef. Though I was treated very well and was serviced very promptly and efficiently, it was hard to gauge their overall service since I realized that by the end of the meal I was still the only guest that had walked through the door even though over an hour had passed. I certainly hoped they make it, since that area of Berkeley could use a good Vietnamese restaurant. I think people haven't heard that they've opened but they're definitely worth a try.

Anh Hong
2067 University Ave
(between Milvia St & Shattuck Ave)
Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. Carb Lover Jan 30, 2008 05:09 AM

    Thanks for your detailed report. Your dishes sound interesting w/ both containing seafood and some Japanese influences. It sounds like the FCI-trained chef is possibly adding his own special flourishes to this mini-chain of restaurants. We ate at Anh Hong San Jose for 7 courses of beef last year, and I don't remember seeing anything like that on their menu.

    Do you know the cost of the beef menu per person at the Berkeley branch? I hope you will try it when the mood strikes and report back!

    Here's a link to our lunch report:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396826

    -----
    Anh Hong Restaurant
    150 Tully Rd, San Jose, CA 95111

    2 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover
      nicedragonboy Jan 30, 2008 07:37 AM

      The 7 courses menu is $21.95/pp...they didn't have any to-go menus yet, so they let me take a copy of the menu that I ordered from.

      to hohokam: from what I see, other than the 7 courses menu, the berkeley restaurant seems to have a different menu than what's on their website. And even those prices don't match up. but most items are ranging from $8-15 (entrees, soups, rice plates) with only the full 7 courses at the $22, side orders and non-alcoholic drinks from $2-4.

      1. re: nicedragonboy
        hohokam Jan 30, 2008 07:48 AM

        Thanks. Those prices are at the high end of my price range for the usual workaday lunch, but the food definitely looks like it's worth checking out.

    2. hohokam Jan 30, 2008 06:29 AM

      Does anyone here know if they have a weekday lunch menu? Everything looks great, but I'm wondering if they have main dish options that are less expensive than those that appear on their online menu.

      1. Scott M Jan 30, 2008 09:59 AM

        Here is the coverage on Check Please from another location.

        http://blogs.kqed.org/food/?p=78

        1. nicedragonboy Feb 4, 2008 12:38 PM

          Will be going tonight to try the 7 courses of beef menu with a friend if anyone else cares to drop by around 6:30pm.

          1. c
            chemchef Feb 4, 2008 01:04 PM

            Tried to go this weekend for lunch after the farmer's market only to find out that they're not open for lunch. :-(

            There we stood in the pouring down rain. It was sad.

            1. p
              peterme Feb 5, 2008 06:22 AM

              Inspired by this post, my fiance and I went last Friday night, and had a delightful time.

              We started with the asparagus and crap soup, and the salmon carpaccio. Both were quite tasty. The salmon carpaccio is essentially sashimi with a wasabi-and-fish sauce brushing.

              We then split a single order of the 7 courses of beef. So, we only had to pay $21.95, instead of $21.95 per person. I don't know if this is standard policy, or if they're being accommodating while they try to pick up business. The 7 courses was tasty, and, perhaps as importantly, fun.

              They comped my fiance a lychee martini (made with soju) that was refreshing.

              We'll definitely go back! It looks like the kind of place that's better with a larger group.

              5 Replies
              1. re: peterme
                wolfe Feb 5, 2008 07:09 AM

                Peterme, crab soup,crab soup.

                1. re: peterme
                  Ruth Lafler Feb 5, 2008 09:28 AM

                  Generally places don't allow people to split one order of 7 courses of beef, but near campus they may have to to draw a more bargain-minded crowd.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    nicedragonboy Feb 5, 2008 01:02 PM

                    In general that is true, but it's been my experience that most casual vietnamese places are more than willing to let you order less servings than the number of diners if it's apparent that you are ordering something else like additional appetizers/side dishes or desserts.

                    That being said, I did go last night to try the 7 courses with a friend. We asked for two orders along with the Salmon Tai Chanh, but we were too full for dessert. I have to say that the fish there is excellent, extremely fresh and goes well in their tai chanh sauces topped with I think julliened papaya and crispy fried green onion bits.

                    The 1st of 7 courses was a very nice and light papaya beef salad accented with slices of very crisp and almost sweet slices of celery. Then came a beef carpaccio, very rare, and very tasty. next came a big platter with the next 4 meats, bo la lot (spiced beef wrapped in Lot leaf), bo cha dum (steamed beef meat balls), bo moi chai (grilled beef sausages) and bo nuong sa(beef grilled with lemongrass) and finally finished up with chao bo (beef and ginger rice porridge). This is all served with a big plate of veggies, lettuces, herbs, mints, pickled carrots/daikon, cucumbers, bean sprouts, a good number of rice paper wrappers with a warm bowl of water to soak them in. We also asked for a side of bun (rice noodle).

                    This is all served with 2 dipping sauces and extra chili paste for those who have hotter palates.

                    The food was excellent, with our favorites being the beef carpaccio, the bo la lot and the bo moi chai. Big bonus that the rice paper they provide is of the thicker durable variety that holds up well to wrapping lots of stuffing. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a 7 courses restaurant uses rice paper that rips or falls apart on first contact, which can make the experience frustrating rather than fun.

                    Now, while the food was all good last night, the service was seriously in need of work. I know some of them were new, and though friendly enough, there were several missteps. First, they didn't know what an arnold palmer was, and when I described it to him, he first brought out a thai ice tea with lemonade. And though I'm adventurous, I'm not that adventurous. They seem to forget spoons, bowls, sauces. It was just weird. The side order of rice noodles had been initially taken to the wrong table even. I hope they get their act together service wise since I'll definitely be back for the food.

                    1. re: nicedragonboy
                      f
                      frangelica Feb 7, 2008 06:37 PM

                      Was there last night and the sevice was excellent as was the food. The Tuna Tai Chanh was wonderful, some of the freshest tasting tuna I have had in a long time. Only negs were; the soda was $2 and no refills, not a big deal really and the toilet in the lady's restroom ,which was EXTREMELY clean, is situated in the stall so that your knee is against the door. Also, it was missing a bolt so it rocked. Suggest the ladies use the handicapped stall.

                      Definitely will go back.

                      1. re: nicedragonboy
                        Robert Lauriston May 13, 2008 08:57 AM

                        We tried the bo 7 mon ($21.95 / person) last night. Meal was the same as nicedragonboy describes except the service was good. I've had beef seven ways at three or four other places (including the Anh Hong on Geary), and this was my favorite. Very bright, clean flavors.

                        Really nice room, only blot on the decor was at least three TVs tuned to a baseball game, and at least one had the sound up.

                        Dinner hours are officially 5-11pm, but the kitchen closed at 10:30 and they shut off the neon beer signs by the window. Per their Web site, as of May 1 they're now open for lunch M-F 11:00-2:30 (so still not an option for after the Saturday farmers market).

                        -----
                        Anh Hong
                        2067 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  2. Maple Aug 3, 2008 09:58 PM

                    We went to Anh Hong for Saturday night dinner. The place was perhaps a third full. I liked the high ceiling and tiled floor, though the beer signs were tacky and should be removed.

                    The meal was so-so. Not wanting to have quite so much beef, we opted for a la carte dishes
                    - the asparagus crab soup (good consistency, though a bit like egg drop soup in terms of flavor; the asparagus was out of a can and nasty-tasting.
                    - the chicken wing apetizer - despite what the waitress said, it was roasted rather than fried, which is a plus. The sauce was a tad on the sweet side for my taste, but the dish was good overall
                    - shrimp with lemongrass sauce - the sauce was quite good, though the shrimp was overcooked and rubbery
                    - chicken and shrimp clay pot - the flavor was ok and the matsutake mushroom pieces were quite good, though overall it needed something to make it sparkle.

                    Given the dishes were average, and that the menu was quite limited and lacking in imagination, I don't think we will be going back any time soon.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Maple
                      Robert Lauriston Aug 4, 2008 09:35 AM

                      The beef 7 ways dinner isn't really a huge amount of beef.

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