East Is East

Miss Saigon

Some of the dishes overcame the venue's lack of culinary vim. The beef dancing ($6.50), quickly seared beef cubes with vegetables, had a clean, smoky taste nicely accented with onions, lettuce, and tomatoes, like a good Midwestern steak 'n' salad. The clay pot snapper ($3.75) boasted a layered, complex sauce to go with its crisp, moist fillets of bracingly fresh fish. And the lemon beef ($6.75) starred beef that had been "cooked," seviche-style, in a citrus marinade, then served with chili peppers and cilantro. The result was supple and spicy and crunchy with peanuts, the ideally inclusive Vietnamese taste treat.

Dessert brought the best dish of the night: a whipped cream-topped avocado shake ($3) so subtly sweet, so rich in flavor, so wonderfully unusual in concept, it should be served wherever taste buds are suffering from ennui. (The jackfruit shake ($3), fructus exoticus notwithstanding, wasn't nearly as good.) Another dessert drink, this one made with egg, seltzer, and condensed milk ($2), was almost unbearably sweet. But there's a rich, tasty chocolate mousse cake ($3) on the menu as well, just in case you feel the need for a little meal-closing inauthenticity.

A Cheerful, Family-Style Place: Miss Saigon owners Huyen Tran and Timmy Nguyen.
Anthony Pidgeon
A Cheerful, Family-Style Place: Miss Saigon owners Huyen Tran and Timmy Nguyen.

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3345 Grand (at Santa Clara), Oakland, (510) 835-3474. Open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: possible. AC Transit: 12, 57, 58. Noise level: pleasant

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We tried three kinds of Vietnamese beer -- Hue, Tiger, and Saigon ($3 each) -- the first two of which are ideally suited to a tropical climate but which seemed too light and watery for our fog-shrouded coordinates. The Saigon, however, has body and a bite. The best dinner drink, though, is the salty plum ($1.75), a wonderfully refreshing libation with the snap of a slightly salty lemonade, just as good hereabouts as it is down 'round the equator.

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