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bun rieu in san francisco and being sad about bun bo hue

The last post about SF bun rieu options was a few years ago, so I thought I'd check and see if I'm missing out on anything...

Places I've eaten bun rieu at in order of tasty goodness (I'm leaving out the places that sucked):
ha nam ninh (they add oc to their bun rieu!)
vietnam too
mangosteen
jasmine garden (I was totally surprised by how decent their soups are)

Places I intend on eating bun rieu at soon:
ngoc mai
quan bac
bodega bistro

Any suggestions? Any comments on the places I'm going or have been to?

Also, if anyone has any tips on bun bo hue options, I'm all ears. So far I've only been placated by the bun bo hue at ha nam ninh. Every place else just kind of makes me kind of sad in a "who peed in my soup" kind of way.

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  1. yummy yummy has an okay bun rieu.

    For bun bo hue, I make the trek to San Jose. Quan bac might be a possibility for bun bo hue in the city, but I've not had it there yet. For the food detectives out there, there used to be a grungy dive on broadway near stockton (I think) that had a really earthy version of bun bo hue but I have not been there for like five years and cannot remember the name of the restaurant.

    6 Replies
    1. re: sfbing

      I took a Vietnamese person to yummy yummy once and she got so mad at the food she almost stabbed me.

      Is the restaurant you're thinking of "Vietnam Restaurant?" That's supposedly the sister restaurant of "Vietnam Too" or "Pho Tau Bay" on Larkin.

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      Vietnam Restaurant
      620 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

      1. re: monkutaro

        Yummy yummy is Chinese-Vietnamese, which might account for the reaction. The inner sunset is not rich in Vietnamese, so I can't afford to be too choosy. Plus, bun rieu is hard to find. Yummy yummy's bun rieu is pretty typical, though, in the "pour in the jar of brown glop" way that most restaurants (even in SJ) make it nowadays. My main quibble is that they put too much food in the bowl and the noodles are a little too soft. Also no rau ram. Their banh cuon are actually pretty good.

        The location is about right, but the place I remember was way more divey than Vietnam Restaurant. My guess is that place is long gone.

        1. re: sfbing

          That's so awesome. I totally remember her exclaiming, "WHERE'S THE RAU RAM??"

          If it's not Vietnam Restaurant maybe it's My Canh? That place is pretty divy and it's only one store down to the west.

          hrm. speaking of chinatown, I just remembered... I might add Golden Star to my list of to-eat places.

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          My Canh
          626 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

          Golden Star Vietnamese Restaurant
          11 Walter U Lum Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108

          1. re: monkutaro

            I think it was in the My Canh space, but don't know if it was My Canh. When I went, the place had no carpet and was really dark in a "lights are a waste of electricity" kind of way. Although, the pics on yelp of My Canh's food look pretty interesting.

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            My Canh
            626 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

            1. re: monkutaro

              I've had the bun rieu at both My Canh and Vietnam Restaurant on Broadway in North Beach. My Canh's version is far superior with tofu, blood cubes, and plenty of crab meatballs. They serve it with cabbage, bean sprouts, basil, chili paste, and shrimp paste. I would recommend adding My Canh's bun rieu to your list.

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              My Canh
              626 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

        2. re: sfbing

          I grabbed a sandwich at Y&Y Vietnamese Deli on Clement the other day and noticed that one of the few soups on the menu was bun rieu. Also, there were some takeout menus for Yummy Yummy lying around. Could the two have the same owner?

          Also tried the bun rieu oc at Ha Nam Ninh. Pretty good, I thought, with mint plus the usual lemon/bean sprouts/jalapenos for garnish. I was expecting to be a little grossed out by the snails but they may have been the best part of the dish. Flavor was subtle and makes me suspect that they don't use that ready-made crab sludge.

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          Yummy Yummy
          1015 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

          Ha Nam Ninh
          337 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

        3. Can't help too much with Bun Rieu, but I've tried Bun Bo Hue at Ngoc Mai, Ha Nam Ninh and Pho 2000.

          Both Ngoc Mai and Ha Nam Ninh were pretty good bowls, with the standard pork hock, pork blood, and beef slices. Their broths aren't as good as Bun Bo Hue An Nam in San Jose, missing the depth and overall balance. I don't believe either served julienned banana blossoms as garnish as well.

          Pho 2000's BBH had plenty of beef slices and pork blood, but no pork hock. Broth was okay.

          I'd be curious to know how Quan Bac's BBH is, as I've enjoyed their Pho Ga and Pho Bo.

          If you're willing to trek to Oakland, try Pho Ao Sen or Pho King.

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          Ha Nam Ninh
          337 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

          Ngoc Mai
          1696 Berryessa Rd, San Jose, CA 95133

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

          Pho King
          638 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

          Quan Bac
          4112 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

          3 Replies
          1. re: DezzerSF

            bun bo hue an nam is still the tastiest bun bo hue i've had in the bay area.

            i'm favoring ha nam ninh's bbh over ngoc mai. the gf says ha nam ninh has the best pork blood. pho tan hoa's bbh was okay, but i definitely prefer the previously mentioned restaurants over that place.

            i'm planning on checking out quan bac's stuff in the next day or two. not sure if it'd be worth my time going to pho 2000.

            how do those oakland places compare to the places in SF? i rarely go over to the east bay for food reasons. eating japanese food on that side of the bridge makes me angry, but i'd consider making the trip for good bun rieu or bun bo hue.

            1. re: monkutaro

              I think the Oakland places are more "in your face" with their seasonings. The fish sauce and spiciness stand out more in their broths, especially Ao Sen the last time I went. I think I couldn't talk from choking on the broth a couple times!

              You wouldn't be missing out by skipping on Pho 2000. And from what I tasted of Golden Star's Pho Bo, I don't think you'd miss out on that place either.

              1. re: monkutaro

                oakland vietnamese seems to be stronger than sf. certainly the bun bo hue at pho ao sen trumps anything i've had in the city. in general, ethnic food tends to be stronger in outlying areas (due to cheaper rents and overall population distribution). think monterey park in l.a. or queens in nyc.

            2. I'm not an expert on what is authentic Vietnamese, but I have enjoyed the bun bo hue at Pho Garden in the Richmond. It's SPICY though. I've always been intrigued by the bun rieu, but I haven't tried it yet.
              http://www.phogardensf.com/page.php?P...

              1. i can't really say, as i'm far from an expert on vietnamese food. but i have enjoyed the bun bo hue at ngoc mai several times. decently spicy, comes with a pork hock and the usual blood cubes. i have had bun rieu once there, and while i enjoyed it i didn't love it. but i don't really feel qualified to speak on it.

                but ifi you're in SF, i'd check it out.

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                Ngoc Mai Restaurant
                547 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                1. I had the bun rieu at bodega bistro. It wasn't bad, but it was basically just crab mince, noodles, and a few tomatoes. none of the extras you might see at other places like fried tofu, pork blood, fishcake, oc, etc.

                  I have some pictures of bun rieu and bbh at various places...

                  http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=bun&a...

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                  Bodega Bistro
                  607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109