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Best Authentic Vietnamese in the Bay Area

lrealml May 7, 2011 02:21 PM

We haven't had good authentic Vietnamese in a long long time.... I blame the Peninsula for this. Not having any solid plans this weekend, we thought that we should seek some out. However, I am not finding any helpful recent threads, so I thought I'd start one.
We are willing to drive up to 40-45 minutes in any direction from Redwood City, so that pretty much opens up most of the Bay Area. We love trying authentic food and eat absolutely everything; however, I admit that Vietnamese food is one of the cuisines we have not explored much. So where should we go and what should we order?


  1. m
    MeredithR May 11, 2011 10:35 PM

    Pagolac in SF is divine.

    655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

    1. escargot3 May 11, 2011 09:56 AM

      Last nite we ate at Quan Bac in SF. It's as close to the flavors I enjoyed when I visited Vietnam some years back as I've had in the Bay Area.

      The oyster pancake was outrageously flavorful: the oysters were as fresh, smooth and tasty as could be. Not a bit greasy. And it was a very generous serving of oysters.

      Shrimp with cabbage salad -- fabulous medley of distinct flavors, all the ingredients were quite fresh.

      I happened to be in the mood for lamb chops, and chose the French-influenced presentation. I was stunned by the flavor of the tender and juicy meat. The mint/basil sauce on the side was a perfect complement to the meat.

      Except for tea (brought to the table after we sat down) which was a bit too watered down for my taste, it was an impeccable meal. As good, or better than Slanted Door -- which I feel is overrated and overpriced.

      I also really appreciated what seemed to be house-made hot chili sauce. Flavorful, hot, and not dripping in oil

      Quan Bac
      4112 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

      1. l
        lrealml May 10, 2011 11:39 PM

        Thanks for all the suggestions! I have added them all to my list (literally). We are definitely new to most Vietnamese food. We have eaten a ton of Pho over the years and some bahn mi, but that is really about it.

        We wanted to try some completely new foods, so Sunday night we wound up at Vung Tau. We called ahead... which was a good thing because they were packed with a line out the door.
        We order the Banh Khot (crisp rice flour cupcakes w/ shrimp and scallions) as ankimo recommended. We also tried the Hoanh Thanh (pork and shrimp wonton soup) with mung bean noodles (sort of a random pick) and the Ca Lau Kho To (catfish caramelized w/ garlic & fish sauce). The waiter got super props and a nice tip for recommending the catfish over the similarly prepared more expensive sea bass (the service was great in general).

        The Bahn Knot was fantastic... crisp outside with a creamy inside. I've never had anything like it before. I am not sure if we ate them correctly. They came with a few lettuce leaves, some fresh herbs, and a dipping sauce, so I ate them wrapped in lettuce with some herbs and then dipped the whole package... have no idea if this was correct. The soup was good, but perhaps not interesting enough to order again. The catfish dish was great: not too sweet with a nice funkiness from the fish sauce.
        We also ordered Che 3 Mau (sweetened kidney beans, mung beans, jelly tapioca, & coconut milk w/ shaved ice) for dessert. This was great and reminded me a lot of the Malaysian dessert ice kacang (which I love). We both especially loved the tapioca, kidney beans, and these chewy gummy noodle looking things. I definitely am looking forward to trying more Che desserts.

        Also, there was no traffic, so we somehow made there in 25 minutes from RWC (this make me more enthusiastic about exploring other restaurants in that area). Anyway, I think this was a good star for exploring Vietnamese cuisine. I can't wait to try more.

        Vung Tau Restaurant
        535 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95112

        2 Replies
        1. re: lrealml
          chefj May 11, 2011 10:58 AM

          You ate the Bánh Khọt correctly wrapped in lettuce with herbs and d dip in the Nước chấm

          1. re: chefj
            lrealml May 11, 2011 11:29 AM

            Good to know! Thanks!

        2. r
          rosiella1 May 9, 2011 09:55 PM

          I really like the Banh Xeo at Grand Century (at the food court place... that's called Banh Xeo) and then there's an awesome rice plate place off Tully - Com Tam Dat Thanh.

          I also agree with Com Ga Nam An for chicken salad and porridge combo.

          For a little bit of twist on the traditional, Pho69 (I hate the name...) has good banh mi with freshly made salt and vinegar sweet potato chips!

          Nam An Restaurant
          348 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113

          1. jetsettess May 8, 2011 01:18 PM

            I live over in the East Bay, just 25-30 from your area, and we have Pho Pasteur in Union City-everything on menu is great , and Nguyen Vu in Newark - mainly Pho.

            Pho Pasteur
            31860 Alvarado Blvd, Union City, CA 94587

            Nguyen Vu Restaurant
            5729 Jarvis Ave, Newark, CA 94560

            1. Ruth Lafler May 7, 2011 02:51 PM

              Go to LIttle Saigon in San Jose (off 101 on the east side). I think the Grand Century Mall at the corner of Story and McLaughlin is a good place to start, as there are both sit-down restaurants and a food court, which makes it easy to explore. I can never resist the Ca Cha Ha Noi at Pho Thien Long; however, I haven't seen a lot of recent reports.

              Pho Thien Long Restaurant
              1111 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

              5 Replies
              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                lrealml May 8, 2011 12:16 PM

                Thanks... any recommendations on what to order? Seems like there may be many ways to go wrong at a food court. Also, being a food court I am thinking that they are probably closed tonight being Sunday and all, so I will put it on the list for later.

                There doesn't seem to be many recent reports about Vietnamese in general... That is why I started the thread... however, seems that there is not much to say... may have to turn to yelp or something to find a sit down place for tonight.

                1. re: lrealml
                  ankimo May 8, 2011 01:11 PM

                  so many good choices in San Jose (off Story, Tully, Capitol)

                  have you tried all these yet:
                  nem nuong cuon: chao vit thien huong
                  upscale, banh khot: Vung Tau
                  fish: Thien Long
                  well rounded: Anh Hong
                  southern pho: Pho Y#1 (people usually like Pho Kim Long)
                  northern pho: Pho Ha Noi
                  bun bo hue: Bun Bo Hue
                  banh mi: Thanh Huong, Huong Lan, Cam Hung
                  che: Thanh Son Hien Khanh
                  green waffle: Grand Century Mall and others
                  chicken: Com Ga Nam An
                  hu thieu: Dalat, Nam Vang
                  rice noodle sheet: Banh Cuon Tay Ho #8
                  bo 7 mon: Pagolac, Anh Hong
                  crab: ppq in sf


                  1. re: ankimo
                    lrealml May 8, 2011 03:17 PM

                    I haven't tried any of them... yet
                    I was just looking for some guidance on where to start..
                    Thanks, this will help a lot!

                  2. re: lrealml
                    Ruth Lafler May 8, 2011 03:25 PM

                    I should have been more clear: Pho Thien Long is a sti-down restaurant. I always order the cha ca ha hoi but everything I've tried there has been good.

                    Pho Thien Long Restaurant
                    1111 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

                  3. re: Ruth Lafler
                    Robert Lauriston May 8, 2011 03:47 PM

                    The Grand Century food court is great. The sit-down restaurant does pretty good bo 7 mon. There's also My Khe Quan Hue right across the street.

                    There's a funkier food court next to the Lion supermarket on Tully.

                    Grand Century Shopping Mall
                    1001 Story Rd, San Jose, CA

                    My Khe Quan Hue
                    960 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

                    Lion Tully
                    1710 Tully Rd, San Jose, CA

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