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Mar 16, 2013 09:11 AM

Lau Hai San-- South San Jose

Just opened on Chinese New Years, Lau Hai San Hot Pot sits behind the venerable Thanh Huong Sandwiches on Senter Road, just north of Umberger. No coincidence since it is owned by the son of the sandwich maker. It is a spick and span sit down place with booths and tables that boasts daily fresh delivery of all its perishable ingredients. Very friendly waitstaff, extensive menu of Vietnamese favorites. My bun (picutred below) was flawless in flavor and presentation. The grill beef with onion was that perfect combination of tender seared beef with a sweet crunch of onion chaser. The eggrolls had the blistered skin like a severe sunburn with a balanced pork, herb and glass noodle filling conjoined in culinary matrimony by a refreshing nuom choc. A great new addition to the many choices that dot the Monterey highway area corridor.

Lau Hai San
2597 Senter Rd
San Jose, CA 95111
(408) 938-0650

Mon-Thu, Sun 10 am - 9 pm
Fri-Sat 10 am - 10 pm

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  1. Heheh, I picked up a sandwich, saw the shiny new place and of course had to take a peek. It had only been open a few days. I didn't have time to sit down for a meal, but I did pick up a menu.

    Very wide-ranging menu with 145 different dishes and a total of 183 items on the menu (the others being che, shakes and beverages). No pho though though there are banh canh and hu tieu/mi for noodle soups. What looks most interesting to me are the 10 salads and the 17 different hot pots. There are quite a large number of vegetarian dishes too, 31.

    1. I posted about the banh khot here,

      I also tried a bowl of hu tieu nam vang. The veggie garnishes were extremely fresh: bean sprouts, Chinese celery (yay!), jalapeƱo, and red and orange mini-bell slices to pretty up the plate.

      The broth was very sheer and near greaseless, tasting of pork and seafood, and more like the stock used for banh canh instead of the richer, fattier bone broth others serve with nam vang. The slices of lean pork were tender as could be and not dried out, but no other pig parts were included but the tiny die of crisp chicharonnes. Shrimp, some squid and surimi added the seafood component. The garnishes included the oft missing Chinese chives, as well as scallions and cilantro.

      A nice bowl of rice noodle soup for sure, but not the lusty, earthy nam vang personality.

      To drink, soda chanh, made here from fountain seltzer rather than a can of Canada Dry club soda. Not as spritzy, but the upside is that my server refilled my glass twice with bubbly water on this hot day. Extra points for the colorful slices of kumquat-like citrus.

      I'll be interested in hearing more reports for LHS. So far, so good.

      1. I can't believe I go to Thanh Huong almost every month, and I never noticed Lau Hai San opening - guess I should just give up my Chowhound badge now.

        Given the name, I'm tempted to try one of the hot pots (lau) with seafood (hai san). But after Melanie's pictures & post of their banh khot it's a no brainer to order that. Guess I'll have to get enough people together and get both...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Alice Patis

          Yes, hot pot is the specialty and there's a dizzying number of ingredients available. The hot pots are sized to serve four people. Most of the tables are four-tops, including a few booths. There are two four-tops in the middle of the room that can be put together to fit a party of eight. That might be the ideal number for a group that wants to try two different kinds.

          Not that I've thought about this at all . . .

        2. That bowl looks really good. Are the egg rolls wrapped in rice paper? Those are my favorite kind! They are really hard to fry properly.

          4 Replies
          1. re: seamunky

            Just tried this restaurant. Had an order of cha gio (5 w/ lettuce/herbs - $7.95) and an order of banh khot (7 w/ lettuce/herbs - $7.50)

            Lettuce was 2 leaves of green leaf lettuce (to wrap 5 egg rolls?!) and sprigs of mint, thai basil, and rau ram. It was nice of them to serve the egg rolls with a pair of scissors. We used this to cut the lettuce in half lengthwise along the spine but that still only gave us 4 wrappers. The cha gio wrappers are indeed crunchy but they roll the rice paper in starch to get the bubbly crunch. The texture of the filling was good but I thought it was a bit bland. My mom commented that it did not taste nor smell of cha gio.

            The dipping sauce was a bit too sweet for my taste. There was only chili oil on the table so we had to ask for chili paste to add to our nuoc cham. It could have used a squirt of lime but I didn't want to ask for too much.

            The banh khot came out about 20-25 minutes after ordering. i think it takes a while to achieve the crisp exterior. They were generous with the tom chay (dry roasted shrimp "powder") but there was only a tiny piece of shrimp the size of a dime inside. 2 of the 7 spheres did not have any shrimp inside. I thought they were kind of bland. No coconut fragrance or turmeric.

            Overall, it was fine but not great. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there again. I went to go catch up and chat with my mom and have something light and herby to enjoy. (We usually like to eat at the Com Tam place down the street). A nice touch was a slice of kaffir lime peel in my water. That was really fragrant.

            1. re: seamunky

              Thanks for the report, especially on the cha gio. I always like to hear comments from our mothers. I've noticed that some places are being less generous with lettuce and herbs because so much goes to waste. You probably didn't want to keep asking for things, but most are happy to bring more lettuce if you make the request.

              I've only had turmeric in banh khot at one place. Is there a place you can suggest that makes it this way?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Sorry I actually can't suggest a place but I did notice the yellow color in many from another banh khot thread. I think turmeric is typical for banh khot in Vietnam (just like in banh xeo). The spherical treatment is a pretty new and novel approach. Also, the added coconut milk (like at Vung Tau) is mostly a southern Vietnamese thing.

                But for fun, here's a pic of some I had from a stall in Hoi An. It's a totally different style. And it was yummy!

                1. re: seamunky

                  It was so good I had to eat there multiple times. :)

          2. I just returned to this restaurant with a friend visiting from Taiwan. It was her last day and she wanted to eat as much Vietnamese food as she could before her return. So we came to Lau Hai San for a plate of banh khot.

            I'm happy to report that two years late their product is still consistent. It was much faster coming out this time - about 10 minutes after we put in our order. The herb plate was the same - mint, basil, rau ram. The nuoc cham dipping sauce was less sweet this time and more suited to my taste. The texture of the banh khot were very nice...crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. They are still doing the spherical treatment and are generous with the toasted shrimp powder. Two of the seven still did not have a piece of shrimp inside. The texture and dish as a whole is tasty but if you taste the actual rice cake itself, it is pretty bland.