Vo's is not the best Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland, but it is one of the few "nice" restaurants convenient to the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland.
I had a pre-ballet dinner the other night, and it actually exceeded my expectations. Some of the other women in the group seemed to think it might have changed hands, and the it had improved from a previous visit.
We shared four dishes.
The special vermicelli noodle combo plate was the weakest -- the noodles were slightly gummy and the grilled meats and imperial rolls were a little dry and tough.
A special of sauteed green beans with garlic and tofu was better -- good and well cooked but although it was tasty the flavors were fairly simple.
Claypot chicken in spicy ginger sauce was also good but not great -- again, it needed something add some complexity to the plain chicken in sauce, and the chicken was not as succulent as it should have been.
The star was the sweet and sour catfish firepot soup (also available with prawns). Although a more authentic version would probably have been spicier, it had a nice spiciness balanced with the herbal and citrus notes of Vietnamese cuisine. The soup was chock full of big chunks of stuff: rich red tomatoes, catfish, pineapple and what according to the menu was okra, but wasn't like any okra I've ever had. Very good.
It's hard to say for sure, but my impression was that they do vegetables well -- on a return visit I'd stay away from dishes whose simplicity show up the shortcomings of the slightly Americanized cooking and go for dishes with a combination of meats and vegetables.
Atmosphere is pleasant, service is good, prices are reasonable. All in all, not a bad choice for a pre-theater dinner.