CH Addict, The Non-Chowhounder Known Only As P, ed, and I left Hung Ky incredibly happy and full today after lunch. Ed's heading to a weekend getaway with all the photos, so we'll all have to await his return for visual confirmation that Hung Ky is worth a lunch stop even though it's in the Tenderloin. It isn't in what I consider the worst part of the 'loin, but it was plenty pungent today because of the heat.
BAHN CUON (not on the menu): CH Addict had heard tales of this bahn cuon's tender rice flour skin, so we ordered two. I did not regret that choice at all. The bahn cuon were shaped a little like spring rolls, but the skin was thin and translucent. They were filled with a combination of mushrooms and pork and topped with a slices of Vietnamese ham (like in a bahn mi sandwich), cilantro, and dried deep fried shallots. Nuoc cham (fish sauce) was offered on the side, as were jars of extra shallots swimming in oil. Delicious. I've never had this or seen it on a menu before, but it was amazing. The skins were tender and warm, the filling very subtle, and the oniony flavor and crunchiness of the shallots were a perfect contrast. It's telling that almost every other table in the restaurant had a plate of bahn cuon despite it's not being on the menu.
PHO GA NAM NGU (special chicken rice noodle soup): this pho ga gives Turtle Tower's a run for it's money even though I was so distracted by the bahn cuon I might not be giving it enough credit. Light clear broth with tiny globes of chicken fat floating on top, tender pieces of not-too-fatty chicken with skin still attached, soft thin rice noodles without any clumping. Clumpy noodles of any kind are a peeve of mine.
BUN RIEU (crab, shrimp, tomato with vermicelli soup): the reddish broth of this soup was very interesting. It reminded me of mild cioppino, but had a spice in it that I could not identify. There were small patties in the soup formed out of what I can only assume to be tofu and crab. The vermicelli seemed more like curly egg noodles than the noodles you typically see in pho tai (beef pho noodle soup). This was fine, but it was also the dish we had the most left over of.
BUN CHA (four season grilled pork, charboiled pork slices served w/ vermicelli, lettuce, and fish sauce): GREAT pork. Smokey, charred, well-marinated meat floating in a bowl of meaty sauce and topped with carrots and daikon. We were so full CH Addict started eating the pork by itself and I was putting much less vermicelli in my wraps than usual. We were encouraged by the owner to douse our wraps with as much of the liquid as could possibly be held by a "burrito" of lettuce and vermicelli, but were too full to really comply.
Drinks were standard Vietnamese restaurant offerings, but very well done. The sip I tried of the salted lemon juice with soda was refreshing and not as salty as the one other version I've tried (that's a good thing, and I'll be more encouraged to order this in the future). The fresh coconut juice I had was very fresh and naturally sweet, with big slices of tender coconut meat. Why do people buy coconut juice in a can? Nature's already provided the perfect can in the form of a fruit!
Anyway, Hung Ky suffers from poor location. A lot of restaurants thrive in the Tenderloin, but Hung Ky is off the main Larkin Street drag of Thai and Vietnamese places. Still, it beats the pants off most Tenderloin offerings, and is much better IMO than Pho Hoa just up the street. $11 each including tip and leftovers.
ed wins the Chowhound "gentleman of the day" award. Not only did he keep our teacups full during the entire meal, he stopped by Copenhagen Bakery and picked up a slice of pink princess cake for the table to share! Despite how full we were, we managed to finish this delicious slab of heaven. I might have to conduct a mini cake crawl this weekend to confirm, but I do believe the current princess cake rankings are:
Victoria (just say no!)
Two must tries: IKEA (I'm as suprised as you are; they're frozen and from Sweden) and The Cakery.