Melanie emailed me that chibi and her husband Justin were in town for a long weekend (from Tokyo!) and were interested in "bo 7 mon" (seven courses of beef) for dinner. We met up and decided to trek to Milpitas to check out the south bay branch of Anh Hong Sai Gon.
AHSG is a medium-sized plain but pleasant and vaguely upscale space. This being the South Bay it's in a neighborhood mall (anchored by a Save-Mart), and this being the South Bay a neighborhood mall with Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese, etc. restaurants.
Chibi warned that seven courses of beef is a lot of food, so we ordered three orders to share, and a couple of appetizers for variety: Cha Gio Anh Hong (Anh Hong egg rolls) and house special Vietnamese crepe. Unfortunately, I wasn't deputized to do the write-up until after we finished, so I didn't take any notes, but cribbing off the menu ....
The seven courses of beef are served with rice paper wrappers, veggies, herbs and greens, and include:
1. Goi Bo (special beef salad) -- julienned veggies and small pieces of very pale beef (speculation that is may have been veal). Not much beef flavor in this dish, but the salad itself was bright and fresh.
2. Bo Nhung Dam (fondue with a special vinegar sauce) -- a plate of very thinly sliced raw beef tenderlion to dip in a pot of simmering liquid. Although this is fun to eat, we all noted the liquid seemed to be missing the vinegar (although wrapping the slice in the rice wrappers with herbs and a dab of chili sauce produced delicious results).
3.-6. Arrived on a single platter: Bo Cha Dum (steamed beef pate) looked a little like tuna salad but had an intriguing combination of nuts, flecks of mushroom, herbs and a few strands of mung bean vermicelli to give it some body. Bo Nuong Mo Chai (grilled beef sausage), Bo Nuong La Lot (beef wrapped in Hawaiian Lot Leaf) and Bo Nuong Sa (grilled beef in lemongrass) were variations on the theme of grilled "sausage" and all delicious -- I have the leftovers in front of me for lunch, and I keep vacillating as to which one I like best. Interestingly, the Bo Nuong Mo Chai appears to be wrapped in caul fat rather than being either free form or stuffed into a casing. The Hawaiian Lot leaf was wrapped around the filling a little like a dolmas, but more tender and aromatic (and a brighter green) than a grape leaf. All three of them can be ordered from the "house special" (Mon An Dac Biet) section of the menu, and I'm guessing they will put together a combo order on request, which I would strongly recommend if you didn't want to go the whole seven courses route.
Finally, course 7: Chao Bo (beef rice soup). As Melanie described in her "purple duck" post, Vietnamese rice soup is more brothy than jook/congee. Even though I was pretty stuffed at this point the flavorful broth with rice and julienned beef hit the spot.
Of the other two dished we ordered, the crepe was the standout: a huge, thin, crisp pancake, folded and stuffed like an omelette with ... what was it stuffed with? I have a vague memory of a soft filling of various cooked julienned veggies held together with something like mashed potato.
The egg rolls were competent egg rolls (of the cigar-sized deep fried variety), but nothing special.
Melanie of course brought wine (one of her food-friendly German Rieslings that went particularly well with the grilled dishes), and was impressed by how well the restaurant handled it (neatly trimmed foil, napkin bib around the bottle neck, correctly poured half-full glasses topped up several times). They also have a wine list. Corkage was $7.50.
Service was generally pretty good -- our main server gave us instructions on several of the courses on how to assemble the ingredients and which condiments to use.
With tax and tip it came to $80 for the four of us -- an excellent value for the amount and quality of the food. The seven courses of beef is $13.95/person.
Anh Hong Sai Gon
243 W. Calaveras Blvd (right off 880 at the 237 east exit)
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