So I passed by this restaurant about a week ago not realizing that TGI Sushi had closed down and a new vietnamese restaurant had taken over the space. Finally was in the area tonight and decided to give it a try.
Finally walking up to the door I noticed two things, 1) they've remodeled the space a bit (looks much nicer), new floor/decor/paint and converted the central sushi boat area to a central bar w/ flatscreen TVs overlooking the restaurant. 2) it was completely empty at 5:50pm. I know it's a little early, but still. Not a good sign.
Being the only customer in the place, I got treated pretty well and found out some info. They opened up for biz on 1/9/08 and the place is the newest branch of the Anh Hong family mini-chain of restaurants in the bay area and so-cal. The chef, named David was trained in the French Culinary Institute I was told and you can see some of that influence in the dishes. Though subtly. The menu is still in flux I was told, but the menu is primarily built around Bo 7 Mon (7 courses of Beef). There are also many other options including traditional and non-traditional vietnamese soups, salads, appetizers, rice dishes, sauteed antrees and noodle dishes. No pho though. And there's a decent drink list of sodas, teas/coffee, wines and beers, decent and inexpensive but nothing spectacular.
On to the food. Since it was cold and drizzly all day, I really wanted a soup and while I was initially disappointed that this new Viet restaurant didn't have the pho I craved, a good option turned up. Mi Anh Hong (Combination Rice Egg Noodle Soup).$8.50 description: Combination of Shrimps, Squid, Crispy Wonton, Chicken, and Bean Sprouts in Miso & Sweet Pork Broth. And I wanted to try one of their appetizers, which all looked appetizing. I asked Dan my server about it, mentioning I wanted to try something new. He figured that I was pretty familiar with the usually Vietnamese restaurant menu the suggested I try the Tuna Tai Chanh (Tuna Garlico Jalapeno) $10 for the small order and $18.95 for the large. description: Tuna Sashimi in Tai Chanh Sauce with Garlic and Jalapeno. I rounded out the meal with a glass of Pinot Grigio. $6. No dessert.
My wine came out first, a very generous pour, slightly chilled, of Coppola Presents. Not an expensive wine to be sure and not my favorite Pinot Grig, but it went well with the meal that came.
The Tuna Tai Chanh was a totally new dish to me, at least in the context of a vietnamese restaurant but it was wonderful. Nicely presented on a white plate, it came with I think 8 or 10 slices of good sashimi quality tuna. drizzled with toasted garlic, mild sliced jalapenos and topped with slices of red onions it sat in a small pool of "tai chanh sauce," which i guessed to be a tart nuoc mam ot sauce with a dill garnish. Whatever it was, it worked for me. I polished this off and enjoyed it immensely. The tuna was very fresh and went well surprisingly with the tai chanh sauce. I would've preferred hotter jalapenos but my tolerance is a little higher than most folks.
The Combination Egg Noodle soup came out soon after I finished the tuna and was pleasantly surprised by the quantity. It came in a large white curved bowl that seems to be popular with modern vietnamese restaurants nowadays. The soup was topped with big pieces of very large peeled prawns, butterflied squid, and crispy wontons which turned out to be of the seafood paste variety (probably shrimp) and green onions. I was actually most intrigued by the soup broth itself and tried it out first on its own. It's good. Distinctly different from any other noodle soup broths I've had. light, definitely miso-y, but feels like a vietnamese soup, if you know what I mean. Flavorful, but not overly salty. Definitely has my approval. The rest of the ingredients were fairly standard for this type of dish though I can say the quality was noticeably better than your standard vietnamese restaurant I would say. The shrimp and squid were cooked nicely and still retained their crispness. The noodles and the bean sprouts lurked underneath to round out the dish. A very pleasant meal and quite filling. I was too full to finish off all the broth, though I certainly wanted to.
I definitely can't wait to go back to try the 7 courses of beef. Though I was treated very well and was serviced very promptly and efficiently, it was hard to gauge their overall service since I realized that by the end of the meal I was still the only guest that had walked through the door even though over an hour had passed. I certainly hoped they make it, since that area of Berkeley could use a good Vietnamese restaurant. I think people haven't heard that they've opened but they're definitely worth a try.
2067 University Ave
(between Milvia St & Shattuck Ave)
Berkeley, CA 94704