June 21, 2011

Bun Thit Nuong at Pho Ao Sen (OAK)

by Kayoko Akabori

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People often ask me, “Why did you leave NYC?” It’s true, I just sorta packed my bags and ditched my glamorous job, my wonderful friends, my comfortable routine, and the GREATEST! CITY! IN! THE! WORLD! (at least the greatest metro system in the world).

All for what?

I’ll tell you what. The Three Major Food Groups:
1. Sushi
2. Pho
3. Burritos

It is no coincidence that I would leave NYC for these three foods, the best of which you can find in the Bay Area. I tell people this, and they sort of laugh it off, as though this couldn’t possibly be the real reason. But this is no joke. We may not have the “Top Chef Masters” but when it comes to the Three Major Food Groups, the Bay fucking swoops!

My search for the best pho in the East Bay ended when I found Pho Ao Sen. The clouds parted, and a chorus of birds chirped in melodic unison.

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I was won over by the neon lights. Indoors.

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In my humble opinion, Ao Sen definitely make the best pho broth around. It is piping hot, flavorful, and goes deep. Most importantly, it doesn’t leave you with numbing MSGmouth.

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Pho with all the beef part fixins.

But let us move on from pho because apparently, summer is here in the Bay Area (not holding my breath). Instead of pho, I’m gonna share with you my newest obsession: The Bun.

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What wildly glorious colors! This one, the Bun Thit Noong Tom, comes with magnificently marinated grilled pork and prawns. It’s essentially a cold vermicelli salad. Perfect for the hotness.

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CHECK OUT THE PLUMPNESS!

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They are gorgeous. This makes me so happy I want to cry. Tears.

Drizzle the tangy fish sauce concoction over this and mix it all up! A delightful garden of fresh bean sprouts, finely chopped lettuce, and mint awaits you:

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Salad porn.

By standard, bun will always have the charred pork. Shrimp and imperial rolls are extra credit. The pork has been a bit too fatty both times I had this, but I’ll let that slide.

Pho Ao Sen is on the corner of International and 2nd Avenue. They close super early, like Turtle Tower and many other pho joints (since pho is more of a breakfast food in Vietnam), so go early.

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Nevermind. GO RIGHT NOW.

PS: I would choose a divey restaurant from the Three Major Food Groups over Le Bernardin any day. I fear that I’m becoming one of those gross Californians who loooooooooves California and won’t shut up about it. Apologies in advance.

Map

PHO AO SEN
200 International Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94606
T: 510.839.6821

FAT MAP

8 Comments

  • Posted June 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I must admit a weakness for Bun and this looks like a very fine example. Le Bernedin, pah!

  • Ricky
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I give you Pho, and burritos.

    Sushi is debatable, the bay has ny beat on cheap affordable sushi, but mid tier, high end not sure.

  • Kayoko
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    In terms of affordability, sushi in the Bay is way better. I could only afford the cheap places serving expired dragon rolls in NYC. The best sushi joints here may not be “high end” and glossy like Yasuda, but it is way higher in QUALITY for what you actually pay for.

    Where are you going for sushi in NYC these days Ricky? I wanna try that place without the fish display/ ice box? Sounds pretentious.

  • yoko
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I just had lunch. My stomach doesn’t seem to care after reading this post.

  • Leslie Palmerlee
    Posted June 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    you are hilarious kayoko, i love everything you write. going to LA for an exam next week, where should we eat?

  • Ricky
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Every place in NY has the fish display. Even the one at whole foods.

    I dont eat sushi much, maybe like once every 4-6 months. I went to 15 East recently, my mind was blown, the head chef is like the Rain Man of sushi. He has like fish encyclopedias, black books of obscure sushi places, and loves making photocopies of his favorite places to give to customers. He told me he doesnt like using the fish display, it keeps his fish too cold, dries it out, but he has to do it because of the NY Dept of Health says he has to. He keeps the fish that he thinks does not need to be kept too cold in a wooden box thats easily stashable when the popo comes. My wife eats sushi alot, she works in midtown east and takes advantage of the “ladies sets” for lunch. Why cant I order the ladies set? She likes Kurumazushi’s lunch deals.

  • Kayoko
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 11:00 am

    The sushi bar with no display I speak of is called Niko in Soho. Opened by a former Yasuda chef?
    http://www.thefeast.com/newyork/At-Nikos-Sushi-Counter-Chef-and-Customer-See-Eye-to-Eye.html

    I have always been meaning to go to 15 East. Again, I could just never afford nice sushi in NYC. I never went to Soto either.

    I def went to Blue Ribbon a lot in Brooklyn. Overall, my favorite place ended up being this hole in the wall on the outskirts of Park Slope.

    http://www.umamimart.com/2008/09/A-Win-for-Yelp-Taro-Sushi-NYC/

  • Kayoko
    Posted June 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Time Out NY’s “Best Cheap Sushi” is a list of 5 super pricy spots. HILARIOUS! Told ya NYC has no legit cheap sushi!

    http://newyork.timeout.com/restaurants-bars/1589495/best-cheap-sushi

    via ricky

    Also, Ricky and I agree that Ushiwakamaru might be the best sushi deal in town.

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