An Epic Birthday Week – Episode VII

Continuing to take advantage of the great Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area, day 7 of my trip to the wild west featured the most exotic dish of the week. It took place here, in this inconspicuous storefront in yet another generic looking strip mall:

Bun Bo Hue Restaurant

Bún bò Huế is a Vietnamese noodle soup featuring a fiery beef broth, thin slices of beef and pork, lemongrass and cubes of gelatinized pork blood. The noodles are thicker and more substantial than in pho, the more common Vietnamese noodle soup. It is an absolutely fantastic bowl of goodness and a thing of beauty. Check it out:

Bowl of Bun Bo Hue

Not exotic enough for you? No problem. At this place, you can choose the optional add-on of… ox penis! Don’t worry, it’s not as revolting as it sounds. In fact it didn’t have much taste at all. It was sort of like cut up pieces of cartilage, only softer. Here’s a close-up, or should I call it- the money shot:

Ox penis in bun bo hue.

While the ox penis didn’t really add anything but novelty to the dish, the rest of the bún bò huế was insanely delicious and was one of the best things I ate all week. The broth itself was the best part, a deeply flavorful and savory soup that made me hungrier the more I sipped. I think this stuff has gotta be one of the best hangover foods ever. Not sure what kind of pepper or chili oil they used, but it was unique in that the heat would light up your tongue and make your nose run but would cool off completely with just a teeny sip of water. Heat from most chili peppers just gets aggravated by water and leaves your mouth numb and unable to taste anything, but not with this stuff. The hottest bites surprisingly were the noodles themselves, probably because the chili oil would adhere to them as I lifted them out of the broth. But baby, it hurt so good. Then with a little sip of water I was ready to have more. This lunch was an incredible highlight in a week of great eats. Man, I’m craving some right now!!

After that fantastic experience, we stopped by the award-winning Lucy’s to pick up some tamales to go so we’d have something in the fridge if we got late night munchies.

We followed that up with a coffee run to where else but Philz Coffee. This time we hit the location at San Jose State U. I went for the Julie’s Ultimate again, CS had the same, and Lily started with a Mocha Tesora. I say she started with that because she didn’t love it and ended up getting a second cup, this time the Jacob’s Wonderbar Brew. Glad she did too, because I tasted it and loved it even more than the Julie’s because it was even richer and bolder and still had no trace of bitterness in the finish. Ladies and gentlemen, my new all-time favorite coffee is Jacob’s Wonderbar Brew!

Since Philz Coffee was located near a branch of La Victoria, we stopped in there to buy a squeeze bottle’s worth of their famous Orange Sauce. It’s an addictive garlicky, spicy mayo based sauce that would be awesome on anything but particularly good with those Lucy’s Tamales.

Later that night Lily and CS had their own dinner plans so I met back up with Nancy and Tony, this time in Palo Alto. We did dinner at a quaint little Italian restaurant called Osteria. It was not an extraordinary restaurant but it was definitely solid. They do pasta exceptionally well, the prices are reasonable, and the service was warm and friendly. Not a special occasion type of place but the kind of restaurant I could see myself happily eating at a few times a month just because their pasta dishes are so good.

After dinner, Lily and CS met back up with us and we hit a sports bar and wine bar in the area before calling it a night. I gloss over the details of these drinking portions of my trip because when hanging out with Lily and CS, the flow of alcohol is so constant that mentioning we were drinking would be like telling you how often I was checking my email. That’s how they roll; if you wanna hang with them, bring your A game!

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