Tuesday night I got stuck in traffic again, so took a break off hwy 80 at Lam Huong Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant (1237 International Market Place, San Pablo, 510.215.9336, 7:30am-9pm, 7 days a week). When the owner told me that he was from Vietnam, I skipped over the Chinese dishes on the varied menu. Beef noodle soup is listed on the business card and pho is featured on the wall board, so I thought I'd start with something basic and ordered the combo plus a fresh lemonade.
This had beef balls, rare steak, well-done brisket, tripe, and tendon. No basil was offered, instead some very fresh and frilly cilantro, plus slices of fresh jalapeno chiles, lemon wedges and bean sprouts. The bean sprouts were fresh but overly mature and many had sprouted tiny leaves which were bitter. The broth was very flavorful and deep and topped with bits of scallion. The rice noodles had a clump in the middle and didn't stay firm for very long, suggesting that they'd been standing around for awhile. The beef balls and steak were in good form, but the brisket and tripe tasted tired, and the tendon had little flavor. I suspect that this place doesn't get that much turnover on these items and keeps them in the refrigerator too long.
The owner was so sweet, I didn't really tell him what I thought of the food. As I mentioned, the broth itself was fine and indicates some care and skill in the kitchen. Maybe there's a gem to be found here with careful ordering. Otherwise, the prices here are the same as elsewhere in the East Bay and there's no reason to seek this place out.