Thoughts on Co Nam? [San Francisco]
Hi SF 'hounds,
Will be making my annual January pilgrimage to your fair city in a couple of weeks. Have already made dinner reservations at Rich Table, AQ, and La Folie (was my second choice for a blowout meal; Saison will not be open yet in the new location when I visit).
I'm still not sure about the final night there, however. My first inclination was St. Vincent, but I was looking at Co Nam's website and now I'm vacillating.
Pros for St. Vincent: I'm a bit of a wine geek and David Lynch seems to have some really intriguing choices and I like that I can order a 1/2 bottle of almost anything. I've heard the food is really good as well, and I like as a solo diner being able to dine communally.
Pros for Co Nam: Travelled to Vietnam a few years ago and loved the food, particularly the street food. Close to where I'm staying (Nob Hill area). Would maybe break up a rather Eurocentric list of restaurants.
If I could go to St. Vincent for one of their lunches that would solve things, but sadly will be working during the day.
Any thoughts would be welcome!
There are other Vietnamese restos closed to Co Nam that I can recommend.
Bodega Bistro on Larkin. This is a Northern Vietnamese cuisine. It has excellent quail, crab roll, and beef jerky salad.
On the same block as Bodega is Pagolac. This is a southern cuisine. Anh Hong on Geary (Hyde?) serves pretty much the same as Pagolac: Beef 7 courses.
One block from Bodega is Saigon Sandwich--possibly one of the best places in the US to get the Vietnamese sandwich banh mi.
You might try Sing Sing Coffee Shop on Hyde, my choice for best banh mi in town, and a calm space to sit and eat it.
For central Vietnamese (and a more grounded eating experience than BB and Pagolac), try Tuyet Mai (also on Hyde) for possibly the best Bun Bo Hue in town and other Hue specialties.
Since hyperbowler asked, I had lunch there in February 2013. The owner is an architect, so there are some striking design features to the interior.
I went for Friday-only lunch because the menu pricing is a little bit lower than dinner, but managed to order one of the dishes that's not discounted, Bun Bo Hue. I think it was $13 at the time and currently $15. That is the most I've ever paid for this dish.
The bowl had a ton of meat in it, as well as pork blood. The stock was not that spicy yet had a nice lemongrass lift to it. My server was a friend of the owner who was watching the store that day but had little experience with the food. He said that the philosophy is to prep as much of the ingredients in-house as possible rather than buying processed ingredients. He said the cha hue (Hue style pork sausage) was housemade. It did taste different than other versions I've had.
The plate of garnishes had finely shredded cabbage, bird chiles, mint, and lime. No banana blossom.
I requested shrimp paste as a condiment for my meats, as I typically do for bun bo hue. My server did not know what this was but he checked with the kitchen and came back with two things. One was the straight Thailand-sourced shrimp paste right out of the can. This was my first time trying this and I thought it was really good and better than what's served at other places. And he had a condiment that was a blend of this shrimp paste and other ingredients that is an accompaniment to something else on the menu that I cannot recall. I liked this very much too.
This was a much more finessed version of what I have considered a rustic, lusty dish. I enjoyed it, but it's not the style that I would order again. That said, I liked the cooking at the time and would certainly return.
I noticed on the website that Co Nam has happy hour Tuesday through Sunday from 4pm to 6pm with 25% discount on appetizers. That might be a nice for a chowdown some weekend to check out more of the dishes.