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Chowdown report for Anh Hong, Berkeley

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A group of eight of us gathered for a lunch chowdown at Anh Hong in downtown Berkeley to discuss the future of the Chowhound picnic and future chowdowns.

As far as I recall, the dishes ordered were:
Vietnamese egg rolls
Bun Thit
Bahn Xeo
Bo 7 Mon http://www.anhhong.com/sevenbeef/

The accompanying herbs were fresh and plentiful. They even included rau ram http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietname... and fish mint http://vietherbs.com/herb-directory/f... which aren’t that common around here. I would definitely go back for the bun—I work on the Berkeley campus and it is the best bun in walking distance. The pork in it had good grilled flavor and, as mentioned, the mix-ins were fresh and plentiful. I also really enjoyed the Bo La Lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves and grilled) from the seven courses of beef, which can also be ordered separately. One difference from their online menu is that the second course wasn’t beef fondue, but rather a carpaccio which was doused in sauce with some accompanying salad. Nothing else stood out, good or bad. The rice soup was a refreshing end to the meal, with just the right amount of ginger (quite a lot). The price for the seven courses of beef is 21.95 per person at the Berkeley location, more than at their other locations. I had previously written this place off as a lunch option in the area after having bad tofu curry and chow mein when I went with vegetarians, but would go back for the bo la lot and the bun, which I had missed previously, as they are listed in a “Dry Noodles” section, though I guess that makes sense, as whenever I order bun cha at a pho joint the waitress always makes sure to point out to me that it is not a soup.

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Anh Hong
2067 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. Did everyone eat the large banh xeo before you could taste?

    1. I was pleasantly surprised with the food. My previous visits were very disappointing. It was a Korean restaurant serving second rate Vietnamese food! Not any more. The beef courses were very tasty, especially the Lot leaf beef. I also liked the rice soup at the end. Lots of greens!

      We also got a lot of work done!

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      Anh Hong
      2067 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

      1. I agree that the ba la lot was quite good, and I also enjoyed the rice soup. IIRC, we shared four orders of the Bon 7 Mon, along with the other dishes (perhaps our orderer can chime in)...and had plenty of food for 8, (though I am not sure if we had double orders of any of the other dishes).

        I was disappointed in the Banh Xeo however: fairly coconuty taste for those that like that, but it seemed too crispy and thin, with a filling that was mostly an overabundance of bean sprouts. Too bad, because I've been craving this dish lately, which one can't find in (my new home town) of Merced...The version at Lotus Garden is much better (still my gold standard, partly for sentimental reasons).

        I used to work around the corner and ate at the place a few times when it was a just ok japanese restaurant. The interior has been totally and stylishly redone and is quite attractive. Would definitely put it on the rotation if I still worked nearby.

        Despite my disappointment in the crepe, it was a nice start to my weekend in the bay area. Good to see some long time hounds and newer faces, and I look forward to more Chowdowns very soon!

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        Lotus Garden
        3216 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        2 Replies
        1. re: susancinsf

          Thanks for the banh xeo report. I would hate to be disappointed at that price.

          1. re: wolfe

            it was a big one, I will say that. I believe someone commented that it almost seemed as though they were going for looks (by making it very large yet thin, it certainly did look nice before we cut into it) rather than taste...

        2. Maybe the flu has dulled my taste buds, but I wasn't all that impressed with the food here. I liked the bun thit okay, the raw beef course was very fresh and the herbs were as well. But the various beef forcemeat courses did not do anything for me. The lemon beef salad tasted neither of beef nor lemon. And as susan reports the banh xeo was a whole lot of bean sprouts and not much of a pancake. I really liked the rice porridge best of all.

          That said, I always love the company at a chowdown. See you guys again soon I hope!

          1. Thanks, t, for kicking off this discussion. My favorite item of the 7 courses of beef was the bo tai chanh, raw beef carpaccio. This was my first time tasting this dish, as I've been served the beef fondue elsewhere. I liked the balance of sour with the slivers of hot chili pepper. And, I liked the beef porridge at the end quite a bit too, especially the sweet and crunchy fried shallot garnish.

            It was interesting to try the many herbs, especially the fish mint. Maybe marlon can repeat some of his choice descriptors for it.

            The grilled beef items didn't seem as flavorful as I remember then from Anh Hong's branch in Milpitas, but that was some years ago. I thought the bun was quite nice, good grill job on the pork.

            We got 4 orders of the 7 courses, 2 orders of bun thit, 1 order of cha gio anh hong, and 1 banh xeo. The manager who took over the order taking process tried to discourage me from ordering the bun thit, saying it was hard to share, and felt I needed to double up on the cha gio and banh xeo. I just told him we would put in another order if it wasn't enough.

            Service was more spotty than I would have expected for the level of attention to the decor and the price point. We had to ask more than once for things that should have appeared on the table automatically, e.g., soup bowls for the porridge, refills of water, serving utensils.

            Thank you to those in attendance for getting down to business too. We were talking about what's needed to put together a picnic next year and finding 'hounds who can help make it happen. We're pushing to make a go/no go decision in the next few weeks. We'll have at least one more meet up in the East Bay and the invitation will go out through the yahoo chowdown group. All 'hounds are welcome to join us at chowdowns and to lend a hand in organizing them and the picnic event. If you're not already a member of the chowdown group, you can sign up for notifications at
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ebchowd...