Castro Valley is known for its annual rodeo and parade; it holds the dubious honor of being the home to the most fast food restaurants per square mile, too. So, when a new restaurant opens, I tend to hold my breath and pray to the food gods above.
At last it seems my prayers have been answered.
Le Saigon Bistro, a Vietnamese restaurant, has opened at the foot of Castro Valley Blvd., scrunched between a Donut Express and a sports bar where the light of day never shines. A bead shop, hair dresser and antique store are its other neighbors. 2652 Castro Valley Blvd, below Lake Chabot Road.
The decor is warm and inviting. Comforting yellows contrast with a deep rust wall in the back. The room is long and fairly narrow with the kitchen set off by a small bar at one end. The tables are far-spaced and the chairs don’t constrict.
Service, let’s just say its in process. But the owner Joe welcomes you and ushers you to a table. The wine list at this point is nonexistent. “You can have red or white.” I bet that changes soon. The wait staff are in training and its fun to watch Joe demonstrate proper table etiquette.
We ordered the Cha Gio (Imperial rolls, 5.95), the Bo Luc Lac (Shaking Beef because they have to shake the wok, 13.25), the chicken curry (8.95) and the Tom Rim (Carmalized prawns, 9.95).
First out were the imperial rolls, nicely fried minced chicken and prawn with green onions, bean threads and I think even scallions served with julliened carrot and fish sauce. I vowed only to eat two pieces and whimpered through the fourth.
Two dishes followed on the heels of the imperial rolls: the shaking beef and the chicken curry. When we ordered we asked Joe what he recommended. Without hesitation he pointed us in the direction of the beef – filet mignon marinated in a sauce of garlic and something sweet, but not at all cloying and served in a bed of lettuce and onions and tomatoes. The perfect wrap. And cooked medium rare. I’d thought to take some of the meat home for lunch, but that didn’t happen. Holy god, nirvana.
The chicken curry was very good. Not too much heat, but lots of meat with potatoes, red peppers, green peppers and onions. Very nicely spiced.
Finally, the caramelized prawns arrived. Piping hot and in their shells, these puppies burned my fingers as I fought to free the meat. I wanted a bit more crispiness, but the sauce had me taking a soup spoon to the mixture. I thought seriously about asking for a take home dish just for the liquid.
Please dear god let this restaurant survive. Castro Valley deserves one superior place to eat admist its food squalor.
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