My DH and I went to Bodega Bistro for the first time before the symphony on 02/01/08. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the restaurant is. I was expecting a dive but it is lovely, with separate dining areas, lovely wall hangings, and beautiful light fixtures. Kind of unexpected for a place on Larkin and Ellis.
Service was friendly and professional. We were seated immediately at about 6:30 on a Friday night, and the waitress answered all our questions about both ingredients and pronunciation. We ordered the roast squab, banh xeo, and bun cha Hanoi. Each dish was brought out separately, first the squab, then the banh xeo, then the bun cha Hanoi.
The squab was remarkable. Roasted on a bed of caramelized onions and raisins, with crispy skin, moist meat, and a delicious, though hardly necessary dipping sauce. I think eveyone in the restaurant ordered this, and for very good reason.
The banh xeo didn't do that much for me. It was good, but I thought there was too much filling in proportion to the crepe. I prefer to get more flavor of the crepe with each bite. Also, the crepe wasn't particularly crispy. I prefer the banh xeo at Lotus Garden on Mission at Valencia.
The bun cha Hanoi came out last and we didn't have time to do more than taste it. This was probably my fault, as I eat slowly and no dish was brought out until we had finished or signalled we were done with the previous one, and I didn't pick up on that until too late. If you have a show, opera, or symphony to attend you should probably let the waitstaff know beforehand.
The bun cha Hanoi included a generous pile of rice noodles with herbs and lettuce, and some grilled pork meatballs or sausage (definitely ground pork) in a generous dish of nuac cham. It was really good, but I can't comment much because I only got one hurried bite.
We paid at the register and made it to the symphony on time, although we had to leave most of the bun cha Hanoi at the restaurant, unfortunately.
I will be back to try this again (with the squab, of course).
607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109