When I spotted banh khot and hu tieu nam vang on the menu here a year ago, I grabbed a friend to check out Kettles Vietnamese Bistro with me. These items make only rare appearances outside San Jose’s Little Saigon, and I never expected to find them in Santa Rosa.
Banh khot were underdone for my preferences. Though I would prefer crisper crusting, they tasted good and even had a dusting of dried shrimp powder that many places omit.
Hu tieu nam vang was a credible version also with the Chinese chives and Cambodian clear noodles that less authentic versions frequently miss. Though low on pork offal, the plump shrimp were cooked on point and the saucing on the dry noodles with soup on the side was tasty. The soup seemed mostly chicken stock, whereas HTNV should have pork stock base. And even though the menu cover says No Added MSG, a heavy dose of MSG found its way into this soup.
A few months later, I returned to try the pho bo. Ordered with beef steak on the side, the meat was freshly cut and juicy, but not trimmed well of the silvery skin, fat and gristle. Broth was pretty good, sort of a happy medium between the restraint of northern style and the (over)spiced sweeter southern type.
Two weeks ago, I tried the pho ga for November’s dish of the month. It was quite poor with sadly overcooked, grainy chicken breast and oversalted stock.
More about the pho ga problems here,
I also had a mint-lemonade that was diluted by too much ice. Pointing this out to my server, he refilled it with overly sweetened base. I had to ask for lemon wedges to squeeze myself for it to taste like lemonade.
This time I noticed that banh khot and hu tieu are no longer on the menu. There’s now no reason for me to return to Kettles.
Kettles Vietnamese Bistro
202 W Steele Lane
Santa Rosa, CA 95403