Hue Restaurant (Paloma Plaza, San Jose)
Two months ago my next stop chowhounding my way through this Vietnamese shopping center was to be Bun Mam Ha Tien (link to kairo’s report below), but it turned out to be closed on Tuesdays. Instead I had lunch next door at Hue Restaurant.
Glancing at other tables, scatterings of white saucers left behind the telltale evidence of multiple banh beo orders and they’re probably the thing to try. Likewise, the steaming bowls of red bun bo Hue were another tip off to what regular customers deem good here. Yet, a quick study of the menu offered up a few Huế specialties (and notably no banh xeo or banh khot served) that seemed more intriguing to me that I had to try instead.
Bánh ram ít, $3.25 – These double-decker garnished rice flour (mochi) dumplings are my latest nomination for the gallery of cute food. The flat disk that makes the base is deep-fried creating a toasty flavored, golden brown crispy crust surrounding a softer, chewy glutinous rice flour middle. A flubbery, gooey, steamed rice flour orb filled with bits of pork and shrimp rests on this fried base and is crowned with shavings of dried shrimp, crumbled chicharrón, fried shallots and scallions. Spooned some of the sauce – diluted fish sauce steeped with slices of fresh jalapeño chiles – over one banh ram it placed in a small rice bowl, then I tried to bite through the whole shebang for one mouthful. Not that easy, but having all components in one bite to chew together gives the full experience of contrasting textures and flavors. Not just eye candy, but very tasty too and highly recommended.
Bún hến, $6.75 – Clams served with rice vermicelli, I’ve had the rice version of this a while back at My Khe Quan Hue. Cool room temperature mass of skinny rice noodles topped with a salad-y julienne of green apples, lettuce, mint, tiny clams, white sesame seeds, cabbage, bean sprouts, jalapeño, and chicharrones is served with a side car of hot soup plus spicy sauce to season to taste. The soapy, alkaline off-taste of the soup stock made me consider that the overused “dishwater” adjective would be entirely apt. The plentiful clams lacked any flavor as well, and the whole thing other than the crispy apples fell flat.
To drink, Sô-đa chanh, $2.25, bringing my tab with tax and tip to $15+. I’ll certainly return for the banh ram it and to try more of the banh array on the menu. What else have ‘hounds liked here?
3005 Silver Creek Rd, #190
San Jose, CA 95121
Other reports on food in Paloma Plaza shopping center
Fung Shui House, #126
Bun Mam Ha Tien, #192
Com Tam Long An Restaurant, #112
On a return visit two weeks ago, I discovered that banh xeo, $7.75, is a new addition to the menu,
The BX is described here in the Dish of the Month thread,
But I was really here to try the nem nuong cuon cha ram, $3.95. The sausage in the two rolls had a fine-grained, hot dog-like texture, sliced into thin slabs, and with a decided charring, as shown in this photo.
They're rolled quite tightly, and the cold, crisp raw veggie components were evenly distributed and well-balanced. Here's the side view.
The sausage itself was not that meaty in flavor. Good crunch to the cha ram. The sauce was a bit too hoisin and peanut-dominated for my taste. It did not seem to have any ground meat in it.
Good enough, but I prefer the version at its neighbor, Com Tam Long An, across the parking lot for this dish.
Bumping this thread because I paid a visit to this plaza yesterday on a brief visit to San Jose.
We had a nice meal at Hue Restaurant. Four of us arrived early (around 6 pm) and secured a booth before it got too crowded. We shared:
Banh beo: rice flour pancake topped with dried shrimp. Served with fish sauce. I liked this, though it wasn't much better than the takeout versions I've bought at other places in San Jose. Had definitely been made ahead of time, since this came out super quickly.
Banh bot loc: Also came out quickly, and tasted good, but nothing super special in my opinion (other than the fact that this dish is not really available, to my knowledge, in San Francisco).
Banh ram it: This was something I had never tried before, and I really liked it. Similar to banh lot loc, but with a rice wrapper instead of a tapioca wrapper, and served over crispy fried rice dough (almost mochi-like). This was freshly prepared and I really liked it. Seems to be popular amongst the Yelp reviews, too.
A fourth appetizer was rice noodle rolls (sort of like banh uot) wrapped around dried shrimp, served with bean sprouts and mint and a different, sweeter fish sauce. Also came with some of the fancy pork. I thought this was only OK.
We also shared three noodles dishes:
Bun bo hue was really nice, and one of the best versions I've tried. The broth was lighter and the whole dish didn't feel overly heavy. It was spicy, but not overpowering. Came with various meats and blood. I thought the serving of actual noodles could have been a bit bigger, but this was the regular version and not the large version so I guess it was fair.
Crispy noodles with vegetables was a vegetarian dish with lots of veggies and tofu. Nothing special, but a solid preparation.
Bun with grilled shrimp was nice—especially the shrimp themselves which had great flavor and were not overcooked.
We meant to order Mi Quang too, but forgot to order it. This bummed me out a bit, because two people next to us ordered it and it looked really good. This made me want to try Mi Quang now, and I am happy to see they have it in Oakland at Pho King. Anywhere else have it?
Total bill for this meal for 4 people was $47 before tip, which is quite a good deal!
After dinner, we roamed around this plaza for a bit. It's interesting that there are so many Vietnamese places in this part of the city, way southeast of Little Saigon. It seemed like there were at least 4 boba places, plus various restaurants (including those mentioned in this thread already). We wanted to eat che though, and had asked the waiter at Hue Restaurant where to go. He told us there was a place that people wait in long lines for during certain hours, so we wanted to find it. We had to ask two other people before finally finding this place called Duc Phoung Tofu (see Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/duc-phuong-sa... which has relatively few reviews). Anyway, we got che there, which I really liked. You got to choose what you wanted in the cups, and they were not too expensive. I got jackfruit, some little mochi, some aloe jelly, some pandan jelly and some mung bean, topped with shaved ice and coconut milk. Total price for two orders of che, plus some pandan jelly dessert (to go) and some fried crispy rice w/ Chinese sausage (to go) was $10.50.
San Jose continues to be a great spot for Vietnamese food adventures. Looking forward to my next visit.