74 down, 2 to go. I begin my final week of Rancho Salads at Andy Nguyen’s Restaurant, located on Folsom just west of Mather Field Rd. This is a Vietnamese restaurant that occupies what seems to be an old diner (like a Denny’s or maybe Carrows). It is a very large restaurant for a Vietnamese joint. I’ve only ever seen small to medium sized restaurants at best in my (albeit somewhat limited) exploration of Vietnamese food.
I arrived at about 11:40AM. There were only a small handful of customers scattered about the large space. I was greeted quickly by a woman and directed to one half of the dining room off to the right where I chose a booth near the corner. Here I could take in the entire place at once. It was very odd. It had the structure of an American diner with the decor of an (hopefully not to be too racially inflammatory) old Chinese restaurant – I specifically mean the tables and chairs – and music the likes of this playing the entire time.
The menu I had viewed online turned out to be fairly different, which is probably the result of the website not having been updated for well over a year. A message on the front page reads “We will be closed this Monday Memorial day 5/26/2014. Have a safe holiday.” Still it didn’t take me long to pick out a salad. The very first one sounded pretty good: Goi – Vietnamese Salad (Steamed shrimp and charbroiled pork)[$9.25]. I took a peak at the drinks and was a little surprised to see Thai Iced Tea on the list. As much as I love Thai tea I thought that a pineapple smoothie [$3.75] sounded even better today so I ordered that instead.
My food was brought out in about 7 minutes and was displayed nicely, with chopsticks being placed on the edge of the plate after it was set down. I was a little afraid that they had made the wrong flavor smoothie since it was pink, but it turned out that the glass itself was colored pink, not the contents. That, by the way, was fantastic. I had probably too many of these while wondering, drenched in sweat, around southeast Asia on my couple trips and this definitely brought me back.
The salad was mostly cabbage with some red onions and carrots with a bit of crushed peanuts here and there. To the side was a sauce/dressing that I was worried would be overly salty/sour, but after a cautious taste test with the tip of a chopstick I found it to be fairly sweet, with just a little sour to it. I happily added it to the salad and dug in. This was better than I expected, not because I had low expectations of the restaurant, I had no expectations at all. Rather, other than pho and some random appetizers I just haven’t found many flavors/textures in Vietnamese dishes to be my cup of tea. This was very enjoyable though. It came with four little pieces of a crisp wafer type thing. They were neat, but that’s about it. The shrimp were fairly flavorful and they seemed to have been maybe cooked in some dark sauce due to their coloring. The pork was incredible. It was very, very rich with whatever it had been marinated/cooked in and was wonderfully savory and a touch sweet.
On top of the food being good, the service was excellent. The woman that tended my table was extremely nice and seemed happy that I was taking photos (not always the reaction I get, even if people don’t say anything). It’s a bit far from work, but I think I will come back for pho since I haven’t found a particularly good place for it nearby yet.