I inherited theater tickets for tonight at San Jose Rep, so I rounded up a friend and headed south. I was hoping he would feel adventurous, and he was, so -- chowhound printouts in hand -- we went to Vung Tau for our pre-theater dinner.
We ordered three dishes, two of them recommended from the last chowdown: the cured beef salad (well, actually the recommendation was that this would be better than the fish version of the salad) and the tamarind crab. Both were delicious: I love those southeast-Asian salads with their contrasts of tangy, sweet, salty, aromatic, citrusy, herbal flavors and the textures of the crunchy vegetables and the slightly chewy beef. I could eat a whole order of this!
The much vaunted Tamarind Crab was also a big hit: a whole crab, cut into quarters and wok-fried in a sweet-sour sauce that was sticky and slightly carmelized. The conversation as we picked at it and licked our fingers was: "ummm, this is good.... this is wonderful, etc."
He chose the CÖm Gà Xät - Chicken caramelized in garlic, lemongrass & chili served w/ rice (#60 on the menu). I was surprised by how assertively spiced this was: the lemongrass had apparently been pounded into a paste and there was quite a bit of it, and the chiles were also much in evidence. Rather than layers, the flavors emerged in sequential bursts: "pow: garlic" "bam:lemongrass" "zap:chile"
Service was friendly, and helpfully brisk (so we could make our curtain). We walked in at 7:00 and were out at 7:40. The easy parking in their lot was a huge plus!
I'm glad I finally got to try it, and I'll definitely be back!