Sunday, May 3, 2009


Within the last decade, Vietnamese food has certainly increased in popularity in the Bay Area. One great example of the explosive demand for Vietnamese food is the Slanted Door in San Francisco. The restaurant was originally located in the Mission District. The food was delicious, fresh and creative. The restaurant then became a huge success and the owners decided to move out of the Mission and eventually settled at the Embarcadero, Ferry Building. Even though the restaurant has been located in the Ferry Terminal for a few years now, there is still a long waiting list to get a table.

Alameda has three Vietnamese Restaurants: The Mint Leaf, Dragon Rouge and the new restaurant that took over Cafe Le's space. The three restaurants all have different vibes about them. The Mint Leaf is clean, simple and organic. Dragon Rouge is colorful, sophisticated and edgy. And lastly, Tu Tai 2 is the new kid on the block.

I've had only pleasant experiences at The Mint Leaf. The room is zen-like with the etched glass of bamboo shoots and leaves. The colors of green and brown are relaxing and reminds me of a "green" space or a spa. This is the only nice space in the Marina Village that feels relaxing. The other restaurants in the shopping center feel more like a cafeteria. The food is delicious and comes with varying degrees of hot sauces. The red, hot sauce was much too spicy for me to enjoy. I was perspiring from tasting the heat of the sauce. Pho soups were large in size and had plenty of noodles, bean sprouts and fresh basil to consume. The broth of the soup was tasty and had great flavor components. The meat dishes were also delicious. I was happy to see that the meat was perfectly cooked and tender. Plus, the vinegar sauce for the meats and rice adds extra flavor and dimension to the dish. Overall, I would recommend this establishment. The prices are not expensive and the service is knowledgeable about the menu. The food portions are generous and you get your money's worth.

Dragon Rouge serves good food and the prices reflect it. I love Bo Luc Lac which is tender cubes of beef quickly stir fryed with vegetables. The meat was flavorful and juicy. The onions and other vegetables were cooked perfectly, al dente. I was amazed how fast the food was prepared, it was less than five minutes to cook one entree. Wow! The interiors of the space is modern with Asian themes, however, someone could mistake it for a bordello type of restaurant with all of the red interiors. I am content with the food, but the prices are a tad high for what you get. I ordered one entree and one side order of steamed rice with no alcohol or drinks. The bill was over $18 which did not include tip. The prices for lunch items seem less expensive and appears to be better deals than the dinner menu. I recommend this restaurant, however, keep tabs on the spending.

A new Vietnamese restaurant in town has taken over Cafe Le's old space. I wonder what the new owner has in store since the previous owner could not make the restaurant profitable. I guess time will tell. I see a grand opening sign in front of the building. The last time I commented on this space was when the painters were changing the color in front of the building. Tu Tai 2 is the new restaurant. The interiors are lighter and brighter to improve the darkness of the room. There are no windows in the space. The new owner has decored the dining room with lots of large fountains of Asian styled Buddha statues and bonsai trees. I noticed the prices of their dishes were less expensive than Dragon Rouge. The menu is quite large with lots of options. I hope they can make a success with the restaurant. The time I tasted their food, it was simple and basic. The food was fine and nothing sexy to report. It was tame, watered down Vietnamese food. I will try other dishes to check out their cooking style.


Anonymous said...

Went to the new restaurant on Webster Street, Tu Tai 2. According to the menu, Tu Ta 1 is located in San Leandro. Bought food to go where the service was quick. I ordered grilled beef and rice. The portion was generous and the beef was tender. There was sauce on the side and a few slices of fresh cucumber. The food was decent and I would come back to eat or take food out.

Anonymous said...

I've only been to Dragon Rouge of these three, but both times, the food was really good and would recommend it highly.

Anonymous said...

There a Vietnamese place on Park St. that I like ---

Palomino said...

Went to the Mint Leaf for the first time this evening. Service was OK, but the food, for me, failed in two directions: bland (prawn spring rolls) or just plain mediocre ("shaking beef," which was a cubed filet mignon nicely sauteed but then drenched in an unfortunate garlic sauce that was larded up with sugar and cornstarch). When I call this dish mediocre, I mean that it would have been a passable meal in a Chinese restaurant. In a Vietnamese restaurant, it was just bad.