After reading the recent posts and having a disappointing lunch at Mangosteen next door, I talked some non-hounds (charming but not terribly adventurous friends) into dinner at Bodega Bistro this weekend.
-green papaya salad with beef jerky
-banh xeo (crepe)
-cha ca (fish with dill and tumeric)
I had tried half of these dishes on a previous visit. The papaya salad in particular is so good! I'd go there just for this. Grated so thin and refreshing, and the homemade beef jerky is delicious. We also appreciated that these were served for us.
We got the potstickers, because I was curious if they be like the ones at Yummy Yummy or Lotus Garden, where they are like pork meatballs, or little porcupines. They were ordinary Chinese-style potstickers--juicy but nothing exciting.
The squab has been highly recommended, but I thought this was a miss, especially at the comparatively high price ($12.40?). It's served on a bed of onions and raisins. Maybe I just don't like squab, although generally I'm fond of roast birds.
The crepe was excellent. The pieces of pork in it could have been smaller, but the texture of the pancake was crispy, and the plate of greens and mints was piled high.
Cha ca was my friends' favorite dish. I agree it's unusual, although the fish filets were a little thin, soaking up the grease. I thought this was often catfish? I would have preferred that. Even so, we enjoyed this with rice noodles in perfect cups of butter lettuce. I was also unsure about the brown sauce that was served with it--fermented beans?--and stuck to vinegar.
Shaken beef was disappointing, although the beef was juicy enough. I didn't love the sauce or the celery in it. I prefer Mangosteen's version, drier cubes served with their magic seasoned salt and a lemon.
Total came to $90 including tip, a glass of wine, Vietnamese iced coffee, and several lemonades. Service was friendly and helpful, and we had enough leftover for a whole dinner. A complimentary plate of flan arrived with the check.
Although I have some quibbles, I do think Bodega Bistro is a great restaurant, especially for someone looking for more unusual dishes and a bit of upmarket flair without compromising authenticity.