...and another enthusiastic thumbs up from yours truly! The past reports and photos had my mouth watering and expectations high, and I'm happy to say that the experience lived up to the hype. Worth a drive from Santa Cruz. Here's the link to last weekend's report: [BROKEN LINK REMOVED]
The nice owners and staff are probably getting used to these group feasts, which hopefully means they will make enough banh cuon (pictured below) to be available to seeking hounds. As has been iterated before, it's not on the menu and can run out early, so call ahead if you have your heart set on this magical dish.
Our group of 10 had 4 orders of banh cuon and then some. See photos below for all dishes. Nothing out of the ordinary was ordered, but I think the rice plate that we were given wasn't exactly what we ordered (#31 Com Tam Bao). Didn't realize this til after the fact.
Anyhow, the banh cuon was outstanding! This is as close to my mom's as I've had in a restaurant, and my husband said it was better than my mom's. After I yelled at him a little, I had to concede that HK's filling was more flavorful and that the delicate parcels held together better. The translucent wrapper had some spring but wasn't gummy, and the sliced bologna or "cha lua" on top was tasty. The shallots were fried well and plentiful, and everything came together splendidly. The only thing that was missing for me was scallion oil, which my mom lightly brushes on top for gloss and flavor.
I couldn't help but compare it to Quang Da's version in San Jose. I think HK's has the edge, but QD's style is very unique w/ the salty shredded dry pork and pile of mint on top. There's room for both banhs in my life...
The other standouts were the seafood porridge (chao hai san) and chicken salad (goi ga). The chao was clean and subtle but had alot of depth and allure at the same time. I loved the irregular texture of the rice grains and the slightly watery consistency, which is very similar to my mom's. I liked the hefty chunks of chicken in the salad and the zesty dressing. The quality of their chicken is above average, and they don't cook it to death.
I sensed that the pho ga had the potential to impress, but by the time it reached me at the other end of the table, much of the broth was gone and the wide noodles had become mushy. I def. want to return for this again!
The weakest link IMO was the last...the BBQ pork rice plate. It wasn't what I was expecting since it was supposed to have 4 kinds of pork and an egg patty (not fried eggs). The BBQ pork was sweet and tasty, but nothing special.
Thanks to CH Addict for organizing and for the engaging and impassioned table talk! Thanks to nooodles for the sample of her wonderful home-brewed kombucha and buttery caramels. I will have to return for the pho ga and bun rieu oc, and of course, more banh cuon. Has anyone tried any of the beef noodle soups here? And does anyone know if the family is originally from Hanoi?
337 Jones (btwn. Ellis & Eddy)
Open 7 days a week 9am-7pm
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