It’s always interesting to read reviews online. A good place always has some reviews that smash them down mercilessly as if all those reviewers were served was a piece of wood with splinters and a side of mud. One thing people should keep in mind when they go to Vietnamese restaurants: order the house specialties. It’s in their name. It’s something they started out with and have earned a living from. It’s what they know best. It’s the difference between an authentic Vietnamese restaurant and a mass-production Chinese buffet. Try something else on the menu only if the specialty satisfies you, and if you want to be adventurous, well, keep your complaints to yourself. Adventures rarely bring satisfaction.
If you ate at Banh Cuon Tay Ho in Bellaire, Houston before, Banh Cuon Tay Ho in San Jose will satisfy your craving, but will not give you the oomph and aaahhhh. Small tables under a small roof, equipped with the usual tray of bottles of rooster chili sauce, soy sauce, some other kind of chili sauce I’m not sure if my tongue would allow me to try, and a huge bottle/vase of nuoc mam mixed with sugar, lime juice, water, and a moderate amount of chili pepper. Pictured above is the house specialty: banh cuon nhan thit (rice rolls stuffed with ground pork and minced wood ear mushroom), served on flowery melamine plate, with bean sprout and sliced cucumber for the bedding, one piece of unknown tempura, and 5 thin slices of cha lua. (Now if you had it in Bellaire, you’d have gotten 3 pieces of shrimp tempura.) Nonetheless it is good.
Also ordered is a serving of banh cuon thit nuong (banh cuon with barbecued pork stuffing). No bean sprout visible on the plate, no cucumber, lots of cilantro and fried shallots atop.
Embarrassingly I must admit I did toss a chunk of the banh cuon roll into the spoon of nuoc mam then into my mouth before I remembered to take a picture. It was very good. Bean sprouts were inside the rolls, so no funky chopstick pickups required. The meat was well seasoned enough that you don’t really need a pool of nuoc mam to buff up the taste. I’ll remember to order it again when I go to Banh Cuon Tay Ho in Bellaire, for comparison.
The TV in the small corner was speaking in Vietnamese. The people around us were speaking in Vietnamese. The waiters were speaking to us half in Vietnamese and half in English. Minus the food carts and woven baskets of goodies on the streets, it’s just so Vietnamese in San Jose.
Lunch for two plus tip was $16.
One more thing, Vietnamese restaurants don’t like to have a website for themselves, and if they do, it doesn’t seem very well updated. Either that, or the Banh Cuon Tay Ho #18 in Bellaire isn’t part of the corporation. And what’s up with the Chinese characters?
Address: Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ #8
2895 Senter Rd
San Jose, CA 95111