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Searching for Vietnamese in Oakland/Berkeley

  • d

After two wonderful meals at Champa Garden, my husband and I realized we really want to find Vietnamese food of that quality in the East Bay. Doesn't have to be fancy, but flavorful, authentic-ish, with a good rendition of favorites.

We moved here from DC which has a pretty robust Vietnamese restaurant scene just outside. Husband is Vietnamese from Orange County and swears we have to go to San Jose to get the good stuff. I'm willing to give it a shot in Oakland though.

Here are our thoughts so far. Any suggestions? Are we off? Not looking for Pho or Banh Mi.

Le Cheval - We lived near here and ate their frequently, but always thought it was just ok, very safe, etc. No big complaints but no memorable meals either.

Binh Minh Quan - Our one meal there was flat. Would be up for trying again. We went at an off time too. Not sure that mattered.

Xyclo - Sort of the same as Le Cheval with one dish that stood out, but all at the table felt Soi Four (Thai) was much better.

Banh Cuon Tay Ho- Really good for Banh Cuon -- didn't try much else.

Le Regal (Berkeley) - stopped by here for lunch a few weeks ago and had delicious Bun Thit Nuong. Eager to try again.

So where do you go? Anyone been to places we need to add to our list?

Thank you!

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Tay Ho Restaurant
344 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Champa Garden
2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

Binh Minh Quan
338 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Le Regal
2126 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

Xyclo Restaurant
4218 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

Le Cheval
2600 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

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  1. The lady who cuts my hair recommended Pho Ao Sen and Pho King to me.

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    Pho Ao Sen
    1139 E 12th St, Oakland, CA

    Pho King
    638 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

    1. I have enjoyed lunches at Tu Tai 2, in Alameda on Webster, mostly bun combos. There is another a place on Park (forgot the name but it has Pho in the name, down near Encinal) but the last few times I have driven by it has not been open. Mint Leaf, also in Alameda, down in the Marina Village center by the Albertsons is good, pretty limited, and has the added bonus of being on Restaurants.com. The details on Restaurant.com was covered recently by Ruth in another post.

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      Mint Leaf
      1513 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 34957

      Tu Tai 2
      1531 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

      9 Replies
      1. re: tomatoaday

        The place in Alameda on Park St. is Pho Little Saigon. It's decent but I wouldn't consider it destination Vietnamese food. For some reason Oakland doesn't seem to support mid-range Vietnamese restaurants that are really authentic (that is, aimed at Vietnamese customers). They're either causal pho joints or more upscale and aimed at a non-Vietnamese clientele (like Le Cheval and Xyclo).

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        Pho Little Saigon
        1319 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

        Le Cheval
        1007 Clay St, Oakland, CA

        Xyclo Restaurant
        4218 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Vo's is the best of the semi-upscale Vietnamese places I've tried. From the decor I expected fusiony food, but it was pretty traditional (much like Soi 4).

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/535310

          Just thinking about those ribs with quail eggs makes me hungry.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I haven't been to Vo's since it reopened. I don't remember the food being anything special, but maybe I just didn't approach the menu the right way.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I never ate there before it reopened, so have no idea how it compares.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              We went to Vo's a few weeks ago thanks to restaurant.com.
              But the meal was completely dreadful. I'd never go back.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The Clay pot chicken was over cooked. The chicken was dry.

                  I was super-excited that they offered brown rice (one improvement that a fusion-styles resto offers us whole-grainers). But not only was it not fresh (it was dry and crunchy), but they didn't know how to bring life back to previously cooked and then frozen or refrigerated grains (the secret is to use moisture of some sort).

                  We ordered about 5 or 6 dishes but unfortunately that's all I can recall now.

                  1. re: escargot3

                    we went to Vo's recently because they serve one of our favored items which isn't made in many Vietnamese places --banh xeo. our impression was, the owner has taken the menu in a fusion direction, with presentation and portion sizes clearly not with the working class asian/asian-american clientele in mind. the food was at least about 30% more expensive than most Viet places deeper downtown or east of the lake, smaller portions, and no real compensatory value in terms of quality--acceptable to good, but nothing outstanding.

                    1. re: moto

                      Vo's is more expensive than most Vietnamese places but it's also nicer and has a decent wine list. Menu's online:

                      http://www.vosrestaurant.com/Oakland_...

                      I think the food and prices are better than at Le Cheval, which is sort of the same kind of place.

        2. Anh Hong is good.

          Binh Minh Quan used to be my favorite but the cooking went downhill.

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          Binh Minh Quan
          338 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Le Cheval is so-so they used to be good.

            I like Pho 84 on 17th near Franklin.

            Other choices - in Alameda - Mint Leaf is good, but a tad "fusion". Not a fan of Tu Tai or the place on Park St (blah).

            My Vietnamese friends recommend Huynh's but I have not been there yet I think it is on 15th in Oakland.

            Another fast/cheap place that I favor is across the street from Merritt Bakery near what used to be WAMU bank. I never knew the name, but the food especially Pho and curry were consistently fresh and hot.

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            Pho 84
            354 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

            Huynh
            381 15th St, Oakland, CA 94612

            1. re: myst

              Think it's Pho Anh Dao

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              Pho Anh Dao
              280 E 18th St, Oakland, CA 94606

              1. re: kc72

                Thanks. I believe that is the one. I only remember it had Anh in the name. Nice clean hole-in the wall place.

          2. Of the restaurants mentioned, I'd probably say your best bet is Tu Tai 2 in Alameda, Pho Ao Sen, and Pho King. I like Anh Hong in Berkeley too, but it's borderline upscale traditional.

            One not mentioned yet is the new Pho Hiep Hung also on International Blvd at the corner of 4th Ave.

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            Pho Hiep Hung
            401 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

            4 Replies
            1. re: nicedragonboy

              stopped by Pho Hiep Hung to pick up a take out menu and I have to say it smelled really good in here... really fragrant with pho spices and what not. it was also much more busy than anytime I had been to the previous occupant (Noodle Trend), so maybe it will last. Basic Pho menu, with chicken pho as well, bun, bun bo hue, and quite a few rice plates, including Hainan chicken. Alas none of my favored Bo Kho.

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              Pho Hiep Hung
              401 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

              1. re: nicedragonboy

                Had lunch at Pho Hiep Hung yesterday for the first time. Place is reasonably large for a pho joint, and I like that the tables are relatively well-spaced so you aren't subjected to a million conversations coming at you.

                Ordered a large beef pho with all the meat fixings (including extra beef balls). Broth was on the sweet side, but still savory. Plenty of meat, including lots of tendon (which made my wife and I both happy). I'd absolutely consider it as one of the better bowls of pho in the Bay Area (best IMO is Pho Kim Long on N. Capitol in San Jose). Only quibble I had with it was that the sirloin was already cooked by the time the bowl got to us.

                The combo rice plates were disappointments. We ordered both of the "deluxe" combo rice plates, and found the portions of meats, shrimp cakes, sugarcane shrimp, etc. to be pretty meager. My wife and I agreed to avoid these next time we ate there.

                Service at PHH was one of the best experiences I've had at a pho joint. Everyone was cheerful, pretty attentive and had no problems communicating with us non-Viets. Extra points also that their fresh squeezed OJ is truly fresh squeezed (I saw one of the staff working the orange press vigorously). And their unisex restroom was clean and didn't smell.

                Cash only, though, so hit the ATM if need be beforehand. I'll be back soon.

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                Pho Kim Long
                2082 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132

                Pho Hiep Hung
                401 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                1. re: Eugene Park

                  Eugene, I second your opinion of Pho Kim Long, although I am a fan of their Pho Ga with all breast meat. I have yet to find another bowl that offers such a generous portion of chicken or that is poached to perfection. It is always plump and juicy, never dried out. I may have to go today!

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                  Pho Kim Long
                  2082 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132

                  1. re: KatoK

                    Yes, PKL is renowned by many for their versions of Pho Ga. When my wife & I go to visit her friend (who is Viet), they always share that.

                    But the cat's meow for me at PKL is their beef pho. Something about that broth is unrivaled to any other I've had anywhere. I don't know what they put into or how long it simmers, but it's damn good.

                    And considering how there's almost always a line 10 deep or more when I've gone there during the weekends, we're not the only ones who think PKL is great. Wish I owned a place that is essentially minting money!

                    I may have to make a side excursion there next time I visit some clients in the South Bay......lol

              2. We like our neighborhood joint, KangNam. Pho house on Telegraph at 44th Street. Passable pho and bun dishes, but the daily specials are where it is at. I like the Tamarind Prawns with garlic noodles, he likes the shaking beef. Quality varies depending on who is cooking that day.

                1. My favorite is Ba Le on International Blvd and 19th Avenue in Oakland. The interior is barebones and it's more a deli than a restaurant but I've found some items there that I haven't seen elsewhere in Berkeley or Oakland: banh khot (mini crepes with greens and dipping sauce), green papaya salad with liver and eel banh mi sandwiches. I want to start trying their soups on future visits. They have a large selection of prepackaged takeout items including a beef jerky that has their own label on it. It's only about a mile from Champa Garden.

                  Banh Mi Ba Le
                  1909 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606
                  (510) 261-9800

                  1. I really appreciate all the posts on this question. I won't comment on the pho places, but will check those out later.

                    I had a meeting-dinner at Vo's last year and thought it was a calm room (nice to have) with great service, but our food was just ok -- wish I could remember the dishes. They did have nice wines and a range of price points. Also a healthy vegetarian menu. Would give it another shot.

                    Will try Anh Hong reasonably soon. That's been suggested a few times. Sounds like Banh Mi Ba Le also has non banh-mi items. Good news there. Will update too.

                    Thanks!

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                    Banh Mi Ba Le
                    10174 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dcfb

                      we enjoyed our meal at Anh Hong and thought Vo's was just o.k. if you're ever in Orange County, you'd have more places to enjoy than time to try, most within an area of a few square miles.