Vo’s Restaurant – San Leandro – Review Update

Vo’s has closed.

January 2011
I just went to Vo’s for a late lunch with my friend Cynthia. I hadn’t been there for a while, and once again I was not overly impressed. The food was fine but not exceptional, and even at discounted prices sort of expensive for what it was.
Cynthia and I shared the chicken wings appetizer ($3.50, usually $7). There were five or six lightly spiced wings, deep fried, that were well cooked but completely unremarkable. They came with a very nice peanut sauce which was better by itself than on the wings.
Cynthia had the Vietnamese peppered beef sandwich ($4). It was described as beef sauteed with green peppers and onions, so she was disappointed that most of what she found in the bread was cucumber and other light veggies. She also wasn’t fond of the cheap-tasting baguette the sandwich came with. I got a chicken sandwich for Mike and he had similar complaints, he found there was too much bread, too little chicken and not enough flavor.
Cynthia had the banana and mango dessert ($5, I think) and she thought it was pretty good, she liked the tapioca sauce which had a generous amount of coconut milk. I had the fried banana with ice cream (also $5 or so) and while it was good, it wasn’t exceptional. There were two pieces of banana wrapped in eggroll skins and a very so-so ice cream. I’ve had a much better version of this dessert at other restaurants.
In all, it was a nice lunch, but not good enough for $40 after tax & tip.
Nov. 2008 Review
Last night, Mike took me out to dinner at Vo’s to celebrate our brief childless status (we do miss the kids, though). I had been there last a few month prior with the girls, and I’d had a pretty good meal. This one, however, was lackluster – the food seemed tired and lacked shining flavors. Part of the problem may be that Vo’s seems to specialize on seafood (its specials menu featured only one meat dish), and that the choices for non-seafood eaters are very limited. After a few visits to the restaurant, you would have tried them all. I think it’s time that they revamp their menu, at least vis a vis meat choices.
Mike started with the crab puffs ($8, I think) – five or six little purses fried and filled with crabmeat. He liked them, but in particular enjoyed the mustard sauce. I had the crispy rolls ($8), an old favorite. I had loved the very light and crispy skins and the flavorful filling. This time, the rolls tasted like egg rolls in any other restaurant. They lacked flavor, and even the dipping sauce couldn’t help them much. I wouldn’t order them again.
My main dish was the caramelized pork & shrimp ($14). I’d had this dish before, and I think I’d enjoyed it, but this time it was pretty average. The caramelization hadn’t added much sweetness to the dish, and I think the meat was underseasoned to begin with. The sauce was very one-dimensional. It wasn’t bad, indeed it was perfectly acceptable – but there wasn’t much of a reason to eat it other than being hungry and having ordered it. I wouldn’t do it again, either. Also, the portion was on the small side (something I’ve noticed to be an issue with Vo’s from the start) – if you came in moderately hungry and haven’t had an appetizer, you’ll still be hungry after eating it.
Mike had the lemongrass catfish filet ($16) from the specials menu. He didn’t think it was that great. The sauce was too viscous and bland, but at least the catfish was properly cooked. He wouldn’t order it again.
Probably the worst part of the meal, however, were the desserts. Mike had the caramelized bananas with ice cream ($7, I think), and the dish consisted of perhaps half a banana sliced and covered in caramelized sugar, it was served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. The banana slices were nice, but again, nothing special. And given how small the portion of bananas they serve was, the dish was grossly overpriced.
Worse still was the cheesecake ($8). I knew that they didn’t make the deserts on site (with the exception, I imagine, of the two banana dishes) – but they really need a better dessert provider. This cheesecake ($8) was flavorless and had been badly defrosted. While part of the cheesecake had the unpleasant texture of ice crystals, the other was thawed to the point of almost melting it. I’m not sure if they did it in the microwave, or how they managed to mess it up so much. The portion was pretty small for the price, but in this case it really didn’t matter as the whole thing was a waste of calories. If I do eat at Vo’s again (and I may very well do so, if I go out with friends who insist on going there), I will make sure to avoid dessert here.
Service was adequate (though the waitress did not ask how our meal was), but the timing of the dishes was off. Our entrees came before our appetizer dishes had been removed from the table. In all, it felt like it was a pretty rushed meal. Which is strange, as the restaurant was almost empty on a Friday night.
Dinner came to about $82 after tax and tip. I used a $25 gift certificate that I got at restaurant.com for $3 (they are usually $10, but they were running a special) – but I felt that even at $60 the dinner was overpriced. Too bad, because I like Vo’s, or at least the concept of Vo’s – somebody just needs to get back in the kitchen and shake things up a bit.
Vo’s Restaurant
277 Parrott St.
San Leandro, Ca.
Original Review

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