Thursday, August 04, 2011

California Dining Part V: Vung Tau

 No Pho, Pa?

We'd almost forgotten about Vung Tau, as our 10 days in the San Jose, CA area drew to a close. Although we love Vietnamese food, the Vung Tau Vietnamese Restaurant had been an alternate choice for our Tuesday lunch with our financial adviser. But we ended up at McCormick and Schmick, which was very nice, indeed, in an Executive Luncheon sort of way. (I see that I haven't posted that yet. Sigh... maybe some day.)

On Sunday we realized that we had an unfilled spot in our California dining calendar. So, with my in-laws, we went Monday at about 1:00 to Vung Tau.

After first parking on a nearby street, my brother in law, R. realized that there was free customer parking at the restaurant, so he moved the car.

The menu is intriguing and presents a style of Vietnamese cuisine that is more upscale, yet accessibly priced, than many other restaurants of the genre. Full PDF menu here. It was notable in that I found only one kind of pho, Pho Bo. Possibly there's others and I just didn't see them.

O.k. Here is the menu. Click to enlarge.

For starters, the Banh Khot were highly recommended by other reviewers. They are described as "cupcakes", but really, they are small, crispy skinned rice tortitas, filled with shrimp and green onions. Truly outstanding.

Banh Khot
We then chose a Shredded Green Papaya Salad with Dried Sesame Beef and Basil. This was a delightful mingling of tart and sweet flavors with small herbal explosions of taste.

Shredded Green Papaya Salad with Dried Sesame Beef
I couldn't resist the Lemon Grass Marinated Grilled Ribs on the menu. They were nearly perfect in the combination of porkyness, aromatics and a nice nibble. The only flaw was perhaps a bit too much salt.

Lemon Grass Marinated Ribs
A Tamarind Soup with fish was next up. R & J got to choose which fish, and they decided on striped bass.

This was a very nice soup, although I would have preferred to have the vegetables cut a bit smaller as well as cooked a little more.

The fish soup was followed by another fish course. From among the many possible options, we chose a Caramelized Catfish with Fish Sauce and Black Pepper in an Earthenware pot.

This is comfort food; extremely soft, almost custard like in texture, in a lush and savory sauce.

Caramelized Catfish, etc.
The restaurant closes for lunch at 3:00 p.m. and at that time, our waiter asked us to place any last requests and to settle the bill. (This, of course, would almost never happen in Mexico.) But it was done courteously, so we paid, after two of us ordered hot Vietnamese drip coffee with condensed milk. My new opinion of that drink/dessert is that I don't have the patience to wait for it to finish dripping. Besides, when it's done, the coffee is usually tepid.

The bill was quite reasonable, $106.89 before tip.


Food: *****
Service: *****
Price: $$-$$ 1/2
Ambience: Simple, modern
Restrooms: Clean and well maintained
Would we return? Most definitely!


Anonymous said...

Financial adviser?! Stick your riches in a good, broad-based Vanguard mutual fund, and quit paying that guy a commission. Piece of cake. You'll have more money to spend on food when you get back to Pátzcuaro.

Calypso said...

"Caramelized Catfish, etc."


Certainly reasonable cost as compared to Las Vegas these days - compared to Mexico - we won't go there.

Don Cuevas said...

Thanks for the tip, Felipe. But our lot is cast.

Don Cuevas

Don Cuevas said...

But, Calypso; don't catfish have eyes?