Sunday, January 15, 2012
Slurp du Jour: Bún bò Huế (redux) at Mangosteen
Street food options were very limited at the Tet Festival Street Fair in San Francisco's Little Saigon today, so I decided to take my hunger indoors. It was a brisk, windy day and pho ga would have hit the spot, but Turtle Tower had a waiting line so I found a table at Mangosteen and decided to try out their house specialty, Bún bò Huế even though I had reviewed the same dish at Golden Flower a couple of posts ago.
Mangosteen is what you might call hole-in-the-wall moderne, attractive on the outside but somewhat garish internally, with lime-green walls and a purple ceiling. The rear wall is adorned with a blowup of a quote about Vietnamese culture by Mme. Nhu, evocation of whom would be decidedly un-PC a couple of generations ago.
My bowl of Bún bò Huế came pleasantly spicy (despite the usual admonition from the server that it was "very" spicy) and topped with beef, pork and shrimp balls. The broth had a nice depth, rounder in flavor and slightly fattier than that of Golden Flower's, but leaned a tad to the sweet side. The accompanying garnish platter (greens, jalapenos, bean sprouts and lime wedge) was one of the most generous I have seen, almost a "side salad" in size. Overall my soup had more of a distinct personality than the version served by Golden Flower (which seemed more of a variant on the standard pho dishes on their menu than something distinctly regional). I'll also point out that it's a bargain at $6.95 for a more substantial dish than, say, a bowl of ramen, which can scarcely be found for less that $10 these days.
Where slurped: Mangosteen, 601 Larkin St., San Francisco