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233 W. Calaveras Blvd
Milpitas, CA 94109
Open for lunch and dinner daily
1818 Tully Road #150
San Jose, CA 95122
Open for lunch and dinner daily
808 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Open for dinner daily
Cuisine: Seven courses of beef and Vietnamese standards
Pluses: Fresh and fragrant food that feels good and costs little
Minuses: Service varies by location, and not many options for vegetarians
Don’t Miss: Seven courses of beef
Prices: $14.95 per person for seven courses of beef, minimum of 2 people
I used to be a vegetarian. Beef, I can do without; but when Anh Hong turns out their version in seven different courses the primal hunter in me raises up through over thousands of years of evolution. Nobody had better get between me and my seven courses of beef. Luckily there is always enough to go around.
Here are a few rules for negotiating your way around seven courses of beef:
Rule #1 – Skip lunch, or eat a very small one
Rule #2 – Order only ½ X + 1 portions where X equals the number of people present in your party (i.e. if you have 8 people order 5 portions)
Rule #3 – Be aggressive, the more adept you are with chopsticks the better.
Seven courses of beef does bring out the carnivore in all of us, but the fact is it is much better balanced than you might expect. What sounds like an homage to the glories of red meat is enlightened by a preponderance of fresh herbs and vegetables. Like most Vietnamese cooking the flavors are light and lively. The cooks at Anh Hong have mastered this balance; they have been perfecting it for over fifty years.
The meal begins with a sprightly beef salad. Thin slices of beef are scattered through a salad of shredded carrots, daikon (a type of radish), celery and lots of fresh herbs and tossed with a highly aromatic dressing. The result is a souped up slaw of unparalled substance and complexity.
Following the salad comes a barrage of dishes. Plates piled high with lettuce, different varieties of mint and other fresh herbs, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber spears, bean sprouts and other plates heaped with rice paper and steaming bowls of water to dip it in. The next few courses come in a build your own burrito exercise, only without the gut-bomb after effects. Each diner softens the rice paper in the warm water and then selects a leaf of lettuce, a few mint leaves, a pinch of pickled carrot or a wedge of cucumber, and a succulent morsel of beef then placing these on the rice paper, quickly rolls it up into an egg roll shape and dips it in the accompanying dipping sauce (fish sauce, vinegar, chili, sugar, lime).
And then there is the beef. Oh the beef! Paper thin slices of raw beef that you cook yourself with a quick swirl in a simmering vinegar fondue, pinky finger sized beef and macadamia nut sausages lightly glazed and charcoal grilled, minced beef wrapped in mildly astringent citrus flavored la lot leaves (pepper leaves), thin slices of beef wrapped around a lemongrass filling and topped with chopped peanuts and lemongrass sauce; and just for contrast juicy monster meatballs stuffed with mushrooms, nuts, and exotic spices.
Slowly as both appetites and beef fade away, plates are cleared and a light ginger infused soup flecked with tender grains or rice and tiny morsels of meat come to the table, a light digestive to finish your meal, an afterthought really, one final course to send you on your way satiated and smiling.
(NOTE: The crispy shrimp wonton soup is stellar and the bahn xeo (a crispy Vietnamese crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts) is also fantastic.