After lunch at Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cantina – San Diego, I definitely needed a nap. By the time I got home, I was starving for some comfort food. Luckily, cousin Q‘s older brother and his wife were starving too. When I mentioned seven courses of beef at Vietnam Restaurant, that clinched it.
But the photos from this post aren’t from my dinner with them. My cousin wanted to get three orders for the four of us. I said one order was enough to feed two people. It’s because the bo 7 mon (Vietnamese 7 courses of beef) was $13.95. He said the same meal costs around $20 in NorCal. That night we only managed to finish one order.
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Since the restaurant looks like a converted house, we were seated on the side area. Vietnam Restaurant, although the business card and menu say Vietnam Vietnamese Restaurant, which seems a bit redundant to me, is owned by Michael, who used to own Vietnam House Restaurant. After he and his wife left, the quality of Vietnam House tipped slightly downward. His nephew owns Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant. His sister owns Saigon Flavor. I haven’t tried Saigon Flavor yet, and you know I think Golden Deli is good, but not worth the hype. My favorite out of all of them is Vietnam Restaurant. The prices and menus are similar. (Only Vietnam and Vietnam House feature 7 courses of beef.) But the flavors and presentation appear to be a bit “brighter” here.
My first bo 7 mon here was last summer with WC reader Hong P. of Secret Garden Studios. It’s a small world when you’re Vietnamese. Turns out, he used to attend church in Michigan with my friend E(L), who also coincidentally turned out to know three other friends of mine. Definitely check out his web site if you like x-ray images of flowers, part of the proceeds of his pictures benefits an orphanage in Vietnam.
Anyway, I had eaten here before for other dishes, which I’ll get to in a separate post. It had been a while since either of us had eaten bo bay mon, so he suggested we order it for the blog. He also insisted on paying for lunch too. Thanks again! Don’t I have the best readers?
First course is the Bo Nhung Dam (Vietnamese Beef Dipped in Vinegar). Starting from the top and going clockwise: raw beef slices, vinegared broth, banh trang (Vietnamese rice paper), dia rau (Vietnamese herb platter), sliced green bananas, cucumbers, and Do Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Stuff ie. Carrots and Daikon), and in the center is Mam Nem (Vietnamese Fermented Anchovy Sauce).
Here’s a close up of the sliced green bananas, peel and all. It can be a bit astringent if you’re not used to it.
Place the slices of beef in the vinegared broth to cook.
Then quickly dip the rice paper into the bowl of water to soften, add greens or pickles and beef on top, wrap everything into a roll, and dip into the sauce. I’ve shown you how to do this before. You’ve got the hang of it by now? Yes?
Courses 2, 3, 4, 5 all came out at once. Underneath the pile of banh phong tom (Vietnamese shrimp chips), you’ll see…
…Bo Nuong La Lot (Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaves), bo mo chai (Vietnamese grilled beef steak), bo sa te (Vietnamese beef with sate sauce), and bo cha dum (Vietnamese baked beef meatball). My favorite is always the bo la lot for that aromatic flavor. The meatball is my least favorite item. Just not much flavor to it. The other two are good, but infinitely better once everything is wrapped up with herbs and rice paper.
Courses 6 and 7 were bo salat (Vietnamese beef salad) and chao bo (Vietnamese beef rice porridge). The chao had thin strips of ginger and was mixed with alphabet noodles. Just a light way to end the meal.
So there you go, that’s one order of 7 courses of beef. Plenty to feed two people. Especially if you wrap everything in herbs and rice paper. I suggest also ordering a plate of Cha Gio Vietnamese Egg Rolls). On this occasion, we also ordered a side of Chao Tom (Vietnamese Grilled Shrimp Paste).
For the restaurant’s other dishes, see my post Vietnam Restaurant – San Gabriel.
Who else ate the 7 courses of beef at Vietnam Restaurant?
Aaron of Food Destination recounts his first experience with some of the unfamiliar ingredients