San Leandro Reviews
You can find my newest review of Vo's here
Update: We went to Vo's for lunch last week (late December 2004) and we had a pretty nice experience. Vo's is a little too expensive for lunch (dishes average $9-14) but their strawberry milkshake ($4) is so good it's worth going just for that. We got a dish of chicken and pork kebabs and really loved the pork kebabs; they were tender and very flavorful. The chicken kebabs were more bland and didn't really excite us. We also got the beef (I think it was) with lemongrass and we both enjoyed it, the meat was tender and flavorful and the sauce refreshing with the steamed rice.
I've been waiting for Vo's Restaurant to open in San Leandro for years. Well, maybe not years plural, but at least one, since I saw them put up the sign on the storefront. Every time I'd go by I'd say to myself (and Mike), "Enough waiting already! When will this place open?" and the day has finally come. As pathetic as that may sound, our dining choices in San Leandro are so limited (Mexican, North-Asian, bad Italian, some fusion, coffee shops) that the prospect of a Vietnamese restaurant was actually thrilling.
So a week or so after Vo's opened, on a Wednesday night in October 2003, we made our way there. I was amazed what they had done to the place. The small restaurant looked much larger inside; there were a multitude of tables actually not crowded together. A big, fancy water fountain welcomed you in (Mika was very interested in it), along with a very attentive, nicely-dressed waiter. A beautiful tiled floor held even more of her interest and helped give the room an element of elegant-informal-chic. This was enhanced by the dream-like quality of the Vietnamese-life scenes on the paintings on the walls. All in all, it's a very pleasant room to dine in.
My one complaint about Vo's is the brevity of its menu. If you are a seafood afficionado it won't seem that brief; it does contain about six starters ($5-8), 13 salads, soups & noodles ($7-12), 11 entrees ($8-12) and six vegetarian dishes ($8-9), but as a person who enjoys neither vegetables nor seafood, I was left with only one choice for an appetizer and two for an entree. This didn't diminish my enjoyment of our meal, but might limit how often I go back (unless the menu changes).
Mike and I started with some Cha Gio (Imperial Rolls) and Bo La Lot (Grilled Beef in Aromatic leaf). I was hesitant to try the imperial rolls because they had shrimp, but you really couldn't taste it mixed as it was with chicken, mushrooms, carrots and vermicelli. They were very crispy and wonderful with the accompanying sauce. Mika even ate some of the filling. They are highly recommended. I wasn't as thrilled with the Bo La Lot; I thought they needed a bit more pizzaz, but they weren't bad. I think next time I might skip them, though, and try the Bo Bia (soft rolls with a mixture of ingredients) instead.
As an entree, Mike ordered the Banh Xeo, a "rice flour crepe with prawns, shredded chicken and bean sprout." Mike found it very tasty and liked it a lot. I had the Ga Muong Ngu Vi Huong, Roasted Five Spice Chicken with lemongrass. It was a little bit dry and not as tender as I'd liked, but I liked the flavor. I'd order it again but not too eagerly.
Mike (the fool) had a diet coke with his meal while I ordered a strawberry shake ($4). This was positively delicious. It reminded me of the fruit shakes we had in Thailand; it was very refreshing, with a delicious intense real strawberry flavor. Certainly by far the best shake I've had in the States. Later on we ordered a pineapple shake, which was good but not as good as the strawberry one. So heed my advice, order a strawberry shake!
The dessert list is pretty good for a Vietnamese restaurant, but on the expensive side (most desserts were $5-7). In addition to the obligatory fried banana, they had caramelized banana, creme brulee, pudding and I think one more. Mike had the caramelized banana, which came with ice cream and chocolate syrup. We both thought it was very good, though given the $7 price, it should have had more banana slices. I had the fried banana (also with ice cream and chocolate syrup, not the advertised condensed milk) and it was OK, though not as sweet and delicious as others I've had. In all, these were good desserts, though not terribly special ones.
Overall, we had a very good dining experience at Vo's. Dinner came to a bit under $60 before tip, and while plates are a little bit skimpy we were certainly filled by the end of the meal. I think Vo's fills a needed space in the San Leandro restaurant scene - a mid-priced, "nice" restaurant serving good food. I hope it will be successful and inspire other similar restaurants to open.
277 Parrott St.
San Leandro, Ca.