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Sunflower Report

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It's been years since I had visited Sunflower for Vietnamese food at 16th & Valencia, and after my meal I couldn't figure out why it took me so long to return.

After encountering a line at the Valencia Street entrance, Mrs. CB and I made haste to the 16th Street side and were quickly seated. We ordered the Shaking Beef, Sunflower Tiger Prawns over Garlic Noodles, the Lemongrass Chicken, steamed rice, and a large Saporo. Total with tip & tax: $51.00.

All three entrees were served fresh and were bursting with individually unique flavors. The large portion of Shaking Beef was as tender as anywhere else I have tried it and the huge prawns were so tasty I felt obligated to gnaw on the shells. Good stuff.

Service was brisk and no-nonsense. It was nice not to have to ask for the check for a change...or even the doggy boxes for that matter.

I hope it doesn't take me so long to return again.

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Sunflower Authentic Vietnamese
3111 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

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  1. Glad to hear the food is still tasty here. I don't mind eating on the 16th St (kitchen) side either. I don't think I've ever had the shaking beef here, does it come with a dipping sauce?

    1 Reply
    1. re: DezzerSF

      Nope, no sauce. But it did come with ripe tomotos and fresh lime for garnish.

    2. I have to respectfully disagree. I moved recently back to the Mission after years in the Sunset spent blissfully dining at places like PPQ on 19th & Irving and Yummy Yummy on 10th, and Sunflower is just not even close. Everything seems very oily, even the bun. Also my pho was made with what appeared to be spaghetti.

      I'm sticking with tacos from La Cumbre in my new/old hood.

      6 Replies
      1. re: isaac1972

        I'd suggest you check out Lotus Garden for comparison. That's my favorite Vietnamese in the Mission.

        1. re: isaac1972

          Thanks for the input. I too am a fan of PPQ, but not so much of Yummy Yummy (too bland). I haven't had the pho or bun at Sunflower in a loooong time, but oil was not an issue with my entrees the other night.

          The spaghetti noodles at Sunflower, are those the same as the ones served with spicy beef noodle soup at most Vietnamese places?

          1. re: isaac1972

            I only ate at Sunflower once, about 1.5 years ago, and based on my meal, I am in agreement w/ isaac1972. I didn't think the food was very good at all.

            Do the two Sunflowers have the same kitchen, but two different restaurants? I don't exactly get it...

            But anyway, I really like Yummy Yummy and Lotus Garden, and I was under the impression that they were significantly better than Sunflower....but maybe I should try Sunflower again.

            1. re: Dave MP

              Yes the two eating areas utilize the same kitchen (L shaped restaurant). People usually favor the Valencia St side, only coming to the kitchen side when there's a line.

            2. re: isaac1972

              I think this may be a case of certain restaurants doing certain things best. Having generally had only the Banh Xeo and steamed seabass at Sunflower, it's hard for me to defend it against the mediocre Bun and Pho claims (It doesn't strike me as a Pho/Bun place though). Oily Bun seems strange since it's served dry, unless the meats served with were particularly oily or the nuoc cham dressing somehow came with oil as well (I think the former is more likely true). Spaghetti noodles sounds like the ones used in Bun Bo Hue.

              At Yummy Yummy, I only cared for the imperial rolls, of the 3 dishes we tried. PPQ, I don't care for the Pho Bo as the broth seems one dimensional, with just a cinammon note. I do, however, LOVE the five spice chicken there.

              1. re: isaac1972

                Having treated this place primarily as a decent neighborhood option for "emergency" Vietnamese (read: I need fish sauce NOW and don't want to have to get on a piece of transportation to make it happen), it hadn't occurred to me to post a report. That said, while I don't think it's particularly fabulous in any way, and while it certainly can not compete with places like PPQ and Turtle Tower, it's neither terrible nor, in my recent and multiple experiences, particularly oily. (Speaking here only of bun and pho bo, which are the things I tend to order.) Bun actually comes completely dry, which is how I've always had it elsewhere, and the accompanying dipping sauce--while occasionally too sweet and too light on the fish sauce (just ask for extra fish sauce straight up on the side), has never been oily either. Imperial rolls are very crispy, and tend to stay that way even after the addition of the sauce. Soup broth is flavorful enough, and the noodles have never been mushy. So while it's absolutely not a destination place, I think it's a fine (only?) option for Vietnamese in this particular neighborhood.