The diversity of Asian cuisine in the San Francisco Bay Area has made a big impression on me so far.
I heard from people who’ve lived in the Bay about how awesome the food is here, but, to be honest, I kept my expectations low. I did, after all, have been spoiled by living for five years in Chicago, which is considered to have one of the best foodie scenes in the country.
But once I got to Mountain View, I immediately took notice that I had not one, not two, but three different Pho places to choose from in the 1.5-mile radius of where I live. As a proud self-proclaimed Pho lover, my periodic evening cravings for authentic Vietnamese noodles and beef are frequent and relentless.
In Chicago, I lived in the Logan Square neighborhood on the Northwest Side for about a year, and my cravings for a classic, unhipsterized Pho Thai often took me on 30- to 40-minute car rides across the city to Uptown — a wondrous land where pho places sit one on top of the other on one strip of Argyle Street.
Logan Square was a great area for food, don’t get me wrong. But it was just not a place for authentic Asian food. Also, before you scream, “Gas-waster!” I needed those noodles. Have some mercy on a poor girl.
So I am pretty happy with my arrangement in Mountain View. I tried all three Pho places near me in about a month, and the closest two I’ve been visiting at least every week. My favorite so far is Pho To Chau. I can literally walk there, and they give you a boatload of basil, bean sprouts and other veggies for your Pho. I love having many veggies in my Pho, and the smell of basil is literally crack to me. The broth is as heavenly light and herbalicious as it should be.
I know, I’m clearly addicted.
However, pho is just one slice of the Asian offerings around the Bay. In the past couple of months, I learned that milk tea is not just a tea with milk but also another word for delicious Taiwanese bubble tea. I instantly fell in love with hot Roasted Oolong I took a sip of for the first time at Teaspoon in Los Altos.
I also tried chocolate egg puffs with my milk tea on another day at T4 in Palo Alto. The tea was delicious, but I didn’t quite get the whole egg puff thing. It looks cool, like a big waffle, but it was pretty tasteless to me…
Soju, a Korean liquor drink, was also interesting to try. It was basically like watered-down, flavored vodka to me. The coconut flavor was yummy though. I tried it out with my friends Grace and Brian at VIP Oriental in Santa Clara.
I loved the ambiance of VIP more than the novel drink. It’s this dim, lounge-type place with enclosed wooden booths. The wood has hilarious graffiti on it (ours had a lot of penis-inspired drawings) everywhere you look, and the workers are super friendly.
More recently, Brian also introduced me to dim sum at New Port Restaurant in Sunnyvale. I had no idea what to order or what anything was called, so I’m glad he knew what we should get. Tiny Asian ladies pushed carts past our table with numerous small plates of tapa-like, bite-sized Chinese food, and my head was spinning from all the yummy choices. It’s a really cool way to serve food.
Now, this Chinese deliciousness was available in Chicago too, but somehow I managed to pass it by. Oh well. I have an inkling that it’s never too late to jump on any train of deliciousness whether it’s dim sum or any other type of food.