2836 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95825
This is my Favorite Vietnamese Restaurant.
But why? It can't be the interior, shaped up to look like the all-plastic vomit of a pirate ship. (Or maybe a completely random scour through the Well This Junk Kinda Looks Asian section of a Chinatown mall.) Note also the striking displays of plastic lobsters and other sea creatures, butting up against moving waterfall lights and fishing nets, within the reach of the faux-oak walls. Also attempt to ignore the painfully saccharine Vietnamese pop, if you can. Sometimes the booths are sticky. The water is lukewarm at best. Service generally entailss a nod and a grunt.
But that's beside the point, dammit.
The food is delicious. It's full of soul, it's cooked up fast, and it always comes to the table at incenidary levels of heat (temperature wise, not spiciness wise.)
I always begin with the shrimp spring rolls, which are fresh, big, and come out with a nice hoisin-inflected peanut sauce. They're a wonderful fresh starter to any Vietnamese meal. Vegetable, chicken, and pork versions are also available, though I think any meat other then shrimp is a little chewy for my preference, at least in spring roll format.
Perhaps the best speciality is the combination fried rice, which at 6.95 or so is the most spendy thing on the menu. It's Chinese ham, fresh diced carrots, peas, corn and strips of egg, stirfried to a crunchy and greasy perfection, topped with three fried and butterflied prawns. The portion is immense and although you'll want to keep on eating and eating and eating, we don't reccomend it - this stuff is even better reheated the next morning. The Best Fried Rice ever - well, it's a contender.
The rice bowl plates are also tasy. I often order the BBQ pork, bean cake and shredded pork plate, which features the dry and dusty but oddly compelling shredded meat and the rich egg-and-sprout infused cake, which could be confused with meat if you were stupid. The BBQ pork is of course delicious, charred to perfection, perfected with a few splashes of fish sauce.
The vermicilli rice noodle bowls are an excellent meal for a hot day. Your choice of meat is layered on the cold noodles, which contain a salad of carrot, beansprout, cucumber and mint at the bottom. Pour on some fish sauce and chili sauce, stir it all up, and you have one of man's better culinary inventions.
The Vietnamese style papaya salad is wonderful, featuring a combination of pork and shrimp, tossed with tons of fish sauce, cilantro, peanut and fried garlic. It's completely delicious and the perfect thing for a hot summer day.
Soups. I hear the pho is good, haven't tried it yet. I did try a BBQ pork-based soup that was simply delicious, with roasted garlic and cilantro and mint resting in a sweet n' smoky broth. I jacked it up with some chili sauce and was a very happy girl indeed. I would be suprised if the pho was not at least servicable here. These people are trustworthy.
So - in short - yes, the decor is bizarre and the service blase....
But these people will get your food out the door faster then fast and still manage to imbue it with a soul and deliciousness that's hard to find in Vietnamese food around here - and that's a damn fine resume.