Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thien Long Restaurant in San Jose

Bún Chả cá Lã Vọng

After leaving the flea market empty handed (bellied?) today, we still needed some food. So we made our way over to this place on the back of a recent recommendation for their turmeric fish (3005 Silver Creek Road #138, 223-6188). Chả cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi was one of the best meals we'd had in a long time, and would definitely be interested in getting it again if these guys could do just as good of a job as they could.

It looked (and smelled) promising when we got seated. The table next to us had ordered it, as did several other tables. Those yellow-stained pieces of fish sat on burners with those signature peanuts and dill weed, along with of course all of those other fresh green herbs standing by on the side. But when our burner arrived at our table, we realized one critical thing was different: the fish was resting on top of the herbs without that bubbling oil.

That immediately made this dish different from what we had expected, as the bubbling oil was precisely the thing that made the original version in Hanoi so darned delicious. Granted, the fish here was tender and tasty, making it a good dish on its own right (thanks for the tip!). But having been spoiled by the Hanoi version, we couldn't help but yearn for a lot more. It's interesting: folks in Vietnam tell me that the phở in California is better than the phở in Vietnam. But it looks like the only way to get the real Chả cá Lã Vọng is by going to Hanoi.

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