A friend and I had a light dinner tonight at the new Little Saigon restaurant on Park St. in Alameda. After a couple of dreadful meals at Emerald Garden down the street I had resigned myself to heading into Oakland for my pho fix. No more!
Although the menu isn't exotic or exciting -- your basic pho/rice plates/bun offerings -- the food was surprisingly tasty and well-prepared. We had the fresh shrimp rolls: the wrappers were fresh and tender and the fillings well-balanced; the accompanying peanut sauce was kind of blah, but could easily be doctored from the array of condiments on the table. We also had the Ga Xao Xa Ot (spicy ginger chicken) which surprised me by actually being spicy (rather than just well-seasoned) with a distinct fish sauce note, usually the first thing to go if Vietnamese food is "gringofied." We rounded out the meal with the Ca Chien Mam Me (panfried snapper with tamarind sauce). The whole fish fillet was perfectly fried: a light crisp crust and not a drop of grease on the underlying bed of shredded cabbage; the tamarind sauce was served in a separate bowl, which kept the fish from getting soggy.
Best of all, everything is 25 percent off through the end of February, so this meal (plus a Vietnamese iced coffee) came to $16.80 with tax but before tip. And even at full price it would have been quite reasonable, especially considering the decor is several cuts above the average pho joint, with dark wood panelling, tables and chairs in the same wood tone, and nice prints and other decorations on the walls.
I'll try to go back and see if the pho is as good as it looks before the Grand Opening special ends.
1319 Park Street (between Alameda and Encinal)
510-337-1700 (whoops, didn't get the hours)