San Leandro Reviews
Update 12/04: Le Soleil has become our favorite restaurant for a nice, good meal out that won't break our budget. We go there at least a couple of times a month and get take out regularly. Its long hours (closes at 10 on weekends) work great for late-diners like us and we enjoy running into friends eating there once in a while.
The early service kinks seem to have been resolved, and while at least one of the waitresses has limited English skills, we haven't had problems with our orders. Service is usually very friendly and efficient, and one of the waitresses has even learned our daughter's name and makes a fuss about her.
I usually end up ordering the grilled pork which I enjoy very much. The vermicelli dishes are now served with a side of a vinegary sweet and sour sauce that improves the taste of the noodles considerably. The portions seem to be larger than at first, and when eaten with rice they don't leave you hungry.
The food, however, is not as good as that at Vo's, but it's considerably cheaper which makes Le Soleil the perfect choice for a nice meal out that won't break the bank.
We have been awaiting the opening of Le Soleil, the newest Vietnamese restaurant in downtown San Leandro, for several months. With so few good restaurants in the neighborhood, any opening is big news, so we were quick to visit on its second day of operations (June 2004). It may not be fair to review a restaurant that has only been open for two days, but Le Soleil did well enough that we can already recommend it.
Le Soleil is located on East 14th Street, in part of what used to be Blaisdell's stationary store, right next door to Luke's Grill; a location we walk by almost every day on our way to the supermarket or the library. They've done amazing things with the little space and the small restaurant looks remarkably hip and elegant (though similar in style to Vo's) with its subdued lighting, curved walls and dark wood counter. The action on the kitchen is visible through an open door - we saw a lot of flames from the grill!
The menu is relatively large for a restaurant this size and includes a variety of noodle dishes and beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian entrees. Appetizers cost $4.50-7 and main dishes are $5.25-12 with most averaging around $8.50. Portions, however, are small; plan on at least sharing an appetizer if you don't want to leave hungry. For the time being, at least, there are no desserts.
We decided to share the Vermicelli with Grilled Pork & Egg Rolls ($7.50), the Curry Chicken ($7.50) and the Beef with Coconut Sauce ($9). However, either the waitress or the kitchen made a mistake and we got the Eggplant Beef instead of the latter. We enjoyed it nonetheless, its scant sauce was very flavorful and the meat quite tender. None of us had tried Chinese eggplant before, and we found it to taste mildly of plantains. They didn't do a good job absorbing the delicious sauce, however, so we didn't eat them. The Curry chicken was also very good, though it didn't have several of the ingredients described on the menu. According to the waitress, this is because the kitchen hasn't learned the menu yet. Still, we liked its mild, aromatic taste and would certainly order it again.
We were less fond of the plain vermicelli, but that is probably not the fault of the kitchen; we just prefer our pasta to have some type of sauce. The grilled pork that came with it was quite good however. Also good were the grilled pork skewers (3 for $6) that we ordered after our main dishes (we were all still hungry). They were a little salty in parts, but very tender and flavorful. They didn't come with the advertised peanut sauce, but it wasn't needed. Mika ate all the veggies that came on the plate - a big plus for us.
We didn't detect any difference in heat level between those dishes marked "spicy" and the rest. All were mildly spiced.
Service was very friendly and competent, specially for a restaurant that just opened. We trust that in time both the kitchen and the waitresses will learn the menu.
1515 East 14th St
San Leandro, CA