My Bo 7 Mon Experience

Beef Seven Ways or Bo 7 Mon is a traditional Vietnamese tasting menu of beef. I’ve seen it available at a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area, but have never been inclined to try it. Don’t get me wrong, I love beef, but seven dishes of beef seems like overkill.  

While on my recent visit to Seattle to run another half marathon, I was in search of somewhere to have a delicious post race meal. My friend and I were thinking steak. I started my internet research and ran across Seven Beef. This Steak Shop is focused on grass fed, dry aged, Washington grown beef. They also have a wood fire oven to cook up their meat. My favorite cut is rib eye, but for some reason I became drawn to the beef seven ways. After running a second half marathon in two weeks, I would deserve seven servings of beef. I made our reservations for last Sunday.

After a celebratory glass of sparkling wine at our hotel, we took Lyft to Seven Beef located in the Central District. We were happy to be seated on a corner where we both had bench seating, but it felt a little removed from the rest of the diners. It was located facing the bar which didn’t have much activity on this evening.  

In lieu of getting a traditional American steak, my friend and I confirmed we would have the Bo 7 Mon. The Goi Bo came out first. It is a beef salad with pickles, fresh lettuce and herbs, and a fish sauce vinaigrette. It was a great start. I loved the mix of fresh vegetables and protein.
The second serving of beef was the Bo Nhung Dam, which is a Vietnamese style carpaccio. The beef is thinly sliced and cooked in a vinegar sauce. I thought it was light and tasty.
The third course included three different types of house ground sausages. It was plated with fresh lettuce and herbs, rice noodles, pickled vegetables, and fresh pineapple. The sausages are meant to be wrapped and enjoyed with all of these goodies. Each sausage was prepared a little differently. The Bo Mo Chai is a house ground beef sausage with pork fat, garlic, and five spice wrapped in caul fat and then grilled over a wood fire. The Bo La Lot is a house ground beef sausage with pork fat and jicama, wrapped in wild betel leaves and then grilled over a wood fire. The Bo Nuong Sa is a grilled house ground beef sausage with pork fat on a lemongrass skewer. All of them were pretty awesome, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be the Bo La Lot. I really enjoyed the crispy charred betal leaf.  
The final course of beef included Bo Cha Dum, a steamed beef meatball that includes pork fat, woodear mushrooms, and glass noodles and Chao Bo, beef congee with mung beans, green onions, and cilantro. The serving also came with freshly prepared shrimp chips. The congee was a little plain, but once I added the meatball into the congee, it provided me with the right amount of flavor and comfort.  
I was thoroughly impressed by the Bo 7 Mon. I am glad I got to experience this meal in an upscale restaurant. I highly recommend the Bo 7 Mon experience. And if you happen to be in Seattle, try it at Seven Beef.

Duck Hunt: New King Restaurant

The first thing you see when you walk into New King Restaurant (actually, entrance is from the back door via their parking lot) is a window display of roast meats including roast pork, BBQ pork, and roast ducks.  
New King is located on one end of International Blvd., only a few blocks from Lake Merritt and serves a combination of Chinese and Vietnamese food. A close friend introduced me to this place about a year ago. She frequents the place often in the mornings to pick up a Vietnamese iced coffee. With a lot of choices in Oakland for Chinese or Vietnamese food, I have been drawn to New King more often in the past six to eight months.  
One day I was craving wonton noodle soup and discovered that New King makes a good one. You can select one or more of their roast meats hanging from their display as a topping. The plump wontons are filled with pork and shrimp. I found the wontons to be fresh and just the right size. The egg noodles also had the right texture. My topping was a delicious BBQ pork. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to savor the sauciness of the BBQ as much because it slowly melted away in my soup. 

My favorite noodle dish at New King is a Vietnamese dish called Hu Tieu Mi Nam Vang Kho, where the broth is served on the side. It comes with assorted sliced meats including some intestines as well as seafood. Topped with an abundant amount of cilantro, there are other deep flavors that meld together to make this dish wonderful. It’s nutty, garlicky, and kind of umami.  

If you look closely enough, there are two kinds of duck that hang on display. The first is the common Chinese roast duck. The other is a flattened duck called Peipa duck. I had never eaten Peipa duck before. Last Friday, I planned “Duck Day” for a small group of my colleagues. I bought the two ducks cut up, brought them back to the office, and we ate.  
Two liked the traditional roast duck (pictured on right) best and two liked the Peipa duck (pictured on left) best. The Peipa duck was a bit leaner and had a deep sweet flavor I enjoyed very much. Most importantly, the skin was crispy like what you would find on a Peking duck. One coworker found this one “gamey,” but that didn’t bother me. I did a Google search to find more information on the Peipa duck and interestingly enough, it was named after the Pipa, a Chinese guitar that is pear shaped. When the duck is cut open and flattened, it resembles this instrument.

Aside from flavor, I look for a crisp tight skin and juicy meat on a traditional roast duck and this one had both. I have enjoyed New King’s roast duck a few times now and I find that it is one of the best you can buy in Oakland.
I would be remiss not to mention the roast pork at New King. I bought a small sample and my colleagues devoured it. With its crackling skin, I can’t imagine anything better at that moment of consumption.

Soup du Jour: Vietnamese Style

I recently heard about Cafe Kim Thuy, a Vietnamese restaurant in East Oakland. What is different about Cafe Kim Thuy is that they specialize in one noodle soup each day of the week. I went on a Friday when they were serving Bun Cha Ca, a fish cake noodle soup popular in Da Nang. I had never had Bun Cha Ca so I was both wary and excited at the same time.  
When my noodle soup arrived, so did the fragrance. At this point, I was very excited. This Bun Cha Ca had five different types of fish. There was fish filet, fish balls, and three different homemade fish cakes which offered a great variety of textures. I especially enjoyed biting into one of the cone shaped fish cakes that oozed a sweet fish roe. The rice noodles were slippery and perfect, while the broth was amazing and flavorful.  The bowl was infused with various herbs and comforting to the soul. 

 I also had their fried chicken wings as a starter. It came with fried onion rings which tasted fake and unnecessary. The wings though were tasty dipped in sweet Thai chili sauce.  
 The soup alone has me interested in visiting on the other days of the week. Here’s their menu:

  • Monday: Bun Moe (Ground pork and mushroom noodle soup)
  • Tuesday: Bun Rieu (Crab paste noodle soup)
  • Wednesday: Bun Mam (Fermented fish noodle soup)
  • Thursday: Bun Bo Hue (Spicy beef noodle soup)
  • Friday: Bun Cha Ca (Fish cake noodle soup)
  • Saturday: Bo Kho (Curry noodle soup)
  • Sunday: Closed

I believe my next visit will be a Tuesday!

Meatball Sandwich, Vietnamese Style

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It was only last year that I discovered Banh Mi Ba Le, a Vietnamese Deli in East Oakland. The first time I went to Ba Le, we bought food for a hike. The deli sells a variety of prepared Vietnamese food including bahn mi sandwiches, rice plates, rolls, and other sides.

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The food we purchased was good, but one thing that really stuck with me was their warm fresh soy milk. My mom used to buy large bottles of soy milk from Chinatown and it was a treat to have it while it was still warm.

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Since the first visit to Ba Le, I have been going back here and there for food, but not without a bottle of soy milk. They closed for almost a month during the holidays for some remodeling and I was having fresh soy milk withdrawals.

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Ba Le reopened earlier this week. I have been hearing (reading) a lot about their meatball sandwich with a fried egg. Yelpers are quoted as saying “sooooo friggin good”, “sooo yummy”, “the bomb!” about the meatball sandwich. I picked one up yesterday and have to say those Yelpers are all right.

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The meatball sandwich with fried egg is #13 on the menu. The ground pork meat with the perfect not so overly easy egg, fresh pickled vegetables, on this fresh crusty soft roll was delicious! The flavors were dancing from sweet to savory to slightly tart and then all over again. I cut my sandwich in half and couldn’t believe how quickly both halves went.

Next time I go back to Ba Le, I will remember #13, I just hope I don’t forget to pick up the soy milk.

Move over Pho, Make Room for Bun Bo Hue

I was only recently introduced to Bun Bo Hue which is a flavorful spicy Vietnamese noodle soup. It was a cold day and my coworker was craving Bun Bo Hue (at the time I didn’t even know the name of the soup). I was open to trying it so halfway through our walk, we called in our order to Tay Ho in Oakland Chinatown and picked it up to have back at the office. To our dismay, it was not the spicy noodle soup, it was Pho. Although this was one of the best Pho I have ever had (their broth is amazing), I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t having my first Bun Bo Hue.

I kept thinking about the Bun Bo Hue and decided to pick one up to have for dinner a few days later. My friend already vouched that Tay Ho has the best and I did enjoy the Pho very much so I returned to get the right thing this time around. The broth was in one container, the round rice Vermicelli noodles and meats in another, and a baggie held the fresh vegetables that included, sliced cabbage, lettuce, mint, and lime. I dumped everything in my bowl, had my chopsticks in my right hand and my soup spoon in my left.

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My first slurp of noodles and soup was heavenly. From my understanding, the broth is made from beef and lemongrass. It also has a mild kick to it. The variety of protein included beef stew, beef tendons, and fish cakes. God, this was good!

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Today my friend and I traveled to Little Saigon in San Jose to have Bun Bo Hue. We heard that this place by the name Bun Bo Hue An Nam is excellent. Although we arrived after 2pm, it still required a fifteen minute wait. In this version, the noodles were slightly thicker, the meats were chunkier, but it tasted fairly similar. I did remove the congealed pig blood. This is a normal item in Bun Bo Hue, but lucky for me, Tay Ho left it out the first time I had it. Next time I have to remember to tell them to omit it.

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I like Bun Bo Hue much better than Pho mostly because the flavor of the broth is more unique and I like the slippery round noodles. For me, Bun Bo Hue is making Winter a lot more bearable. Bun Bo Hue is pure comfort and I am hooked.