This was my first attempt at hosting and i approached it with some trepidation, particularly since only 4 of us had signed up. It all worked out however, and ended up with 6, a fairly decent sized group.
Bodega has gotten glowing reviews in the Chronicle and Examiner and somewhat mixed ones here. First time I ate there, I was quite impressed with the interior, given the location. Most restaurants in the area prefer the bare bones approach. However, they do need to fix the exterior I think. Given that, I have to say that the word has probably spread since they were very busy and we had to ask many times for napkins, etc. Presentation of the food however was excellent, no one found any fault with that. Following are items we had with my thoughts:
Papaya Salad - a signature dish. Looks like rice noodles but really were very thin julienned strips of green papaya. There were also bits of beef jerky, peanuts and chilis in a light lime, fish sauce dressing. Very nice start.
Egg Rolls - Very tasty and not at all greasy. Mostly vegetarian with a little bit of pork. (pork is big here btw for those who don't partake)
Bun cha hanoi - bowl of grilled cuts of pork in a slightly sweet and smoky sauce and a mountain of lettuce, bun (rice noodles), 4 different herbs (rau ram, shiso, lemon balm & mint) This is one of my favorite dishes - incredibly tender and flavorful pork that goes really well with the accompaniments.
Roasted squab - Well done I am sure but the delicate flavor was a little lost I thought with all the other stuff that we were having. Would have been great on its own without all the competition.
Shaking beef - does anyone know who shakes it and why? Tender chunks of soy-marinated filet mignon served rather unnecesarily we thought with salt & pepper.
Cha ca Hanoi - pieces of fish (I believe catfish) marinated in tumeric, ginger, etc. and served with another pile of lettuce & herbs as well as a shrimp paste sauce. I thought it was a little overcooked and bland.
Lemongrass & Chocolate sorbet (Ciao bella?) which Derek pronounced "soapy", the former that is. I liked both even though the lemongrass version looked like it had melted and refrozen. Nice finale to a great meal.
Thanks Malik for the wine - a nice crisp Spanish white reminiscent of a pinot grigio. Next time I will have to bring a bottle of dry Gewurtz - interesting to see how it will pair with the sweet/spicy flavours.
Service could have been better although they did provide us all with nice wine glasses and Chef Kwok actually came and talked to us, something he does not do ordinarily. At $13 per person, it was an experience and a half and great value. Looking forward to my next lunch.