I had a craving for Vietnamese Beef 7 Ways a few days ago and crawled through the past posts, looking for a good choice in San Francisco. My brief search turned up a few posts on Anh Hong, the most comprehensive by Limster, extolling the virtues of Anh Hong in the Tenderloin(Geary & Hyde) as a good choice for this bovine feast. We ate at Anh Hong on Saturday and ate at Pagolac today(Sunday) so all the comparisons below are as fresh as they come.
My GF and I went to Anh Hong yesterday and were somewhat disappointed by the beef 7 ways there. The first course is a beef salad, with tough sinewy pieces of cooked beef mixed with some greens and soy bean sprouts in a vinegary dressing. The second course was supposed to be a beef fondue in vinegar sauce, served with fresh herbs and wrapped in rice paper. Instead of bringing a flaming fondue to our table as I had expected, the beef was simply brought pre-cooked. swimming in a vinegar sauce. In addition to the lack of dramatic effect, this method of serving also prevented us from controlling the doneness of the beef, resulting in overcooked beef slices for the second course. The third - sixth courses came on the same plate and consisted of a variety of beef sausages prepared in different ways. Although the flavor of the sausages were decent, we were a little off-put by the lukewarm temperature of the sausages. The final course of beef porridge was fairly well executed by nothing to rave about. Finally, we were a little weirded out by being the only diners in the whole place, despite it being 7pm on a Saturday. Overall impression: this place is definitely going downhill and should be put out of its misery.
Friends coming into town on Sunday requested beef 7 ways for dinner and my GF and I, eager to get a better beef 7 ways experience, decided to try a new restaurant in the TL that specializes in the dish. Pagolac(Ellis & Larkin), was a completely different and refreshing change from Anh Hong. The interior is brightly lit and has a very clean look. The first course was a rare beef salad marinted with vinegar, cilantro, onions, and bean sprouts. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with absolutely no gamey odors from the raw beef. For the second course of beef fondue, a burner was brought out with vinegar and we placed the thinly sliced pieces of beef in the vinegar and cooked it ourselves. For the third course, the pot containing the vinegar was removed and replaced by a BBQ rack drizzled in oil and butter. Marinated pieces of beef were then brought to the table for us to BBQ ourselves. The beef was well flavored, tender, and accompanied by a side of onions to grill with the meat. Overall, very good food with superior presentation. Courses 4-6 came on the same plate and consisted of beef sausages and beef skewers, all served piping hot and juicy when you bite into it. The final course of beef porridge was also good, but like Anh Hong, it's hard to get too excited about Beef Porridge.
Pagolac is undoutedly the leader for Beef 7 Ways in the Tenderloin. Whatever crown Anh Hong had when Limster went in 2001 has definitely been surrendered to Pagolac and unless it seriously shapes up, I can't see it remaining in business for much longer. On top of the great disparity between the food at the two places, Pagolac was also cheaper than Anh Hong with its B7W priced at $13.95 per person compared to $15.95 at Anh Hong. As long as Pagolac is around, we won't go to Anh Hong again.