Three Out of Four

We like the beautiful decor, excellent service, and interesting drinks more than the uneven food at Bong Su

Mark, Kris, and I were on a tighter schedule at lunch (he had to return to work in Embarcadero 4, and Kris and I were going to catch the Picasso and Monet shows at the Legion of Honor). The menu and prices are the same as the dinner one, with the addition of a $17, two-course "express" lunch option, which we ignored. The appetizer we shared, shrimp cupcakes (again, an unfamiliar Central Vietnamese dish), was the most interesting thing I'd had so far at Bong Su: six little rice flour "crisps," rather more chewy than crisp, each containing a fat pink baby prawn studded with bright green chopped scallions, and served with a rice vinegar sauce. The crab and garlic noodles came in a covered bowl, the cellophane rice noodles hiding an extravagance of lump crabmeat and a huge chunk of ginger, topped with sprigs of celery. I found this dish pleasant (and when I ate the leftovers, cold, several hours later, I liked it even better, as the flavors had intensified), but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Slanted Door's crab noodles, my single favorite dish there, are magical, even though containing considerably less crab.

The grilled Southern pork, marinated in lemongrass and soy, advertised as chops, was sliced loin and sadly dryish; we loved its accompaniment of chewy, silky fried taro puffs, the only thing served piping hot. The four nicely trimmed rib lamb chops, coated in hoisin sauce, were perfectly OK, and served with baby bok choy and a heap of crisp, fried taro slivers. Passion fruit duck was firm, chewy sliced duck breast, in a very mild sauce, with pretty sautéed chive flower buds. The emerald rice could have used more cilantro and coriander. On the whole, Bong Su offers a pleasant, upscale Vietnamese dining experience, but its dishes don't have the snap, fire, and nuanced layers of the more complicated Vietnamese fare famously introduced at the Slanted Door.

We didn't have enough time to wait for the passion fruit soufflé, alas, so we shared an oddly mingy portion of coconut tapioca, nicely adorned with roasted pineapple, mango sorbet, and basil syrup. "I told my dinner companions they should try the Slanted Door," I mentioned to Mark and Kris. "But at the Door," Kris pointed out, "we wouldn't have been able to hear each other." "And," Mark said, "you can get a reservation here."

Where the experts concoct those signature cocktails.
James Sanders
Where the experts concoct those signature cocktails.

Location Info


Bong Su

311 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: South of Market


Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult at lunch, valet at dinner, $10. Muni: 15, 30, 45, 76. Noise level: low.

Honey-roasted quail$11

Shrimp cupcakes$9

Crab and garlic noodles$16

Shaking beef$23

Hainan rice$2

Kaffir lime panna cotta$9

Black sesame

banana beignets $10

Bong Su, 311 Third Street (at Folsom), 536-5800,

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They were right. As I said, there were a lot of things I liked about Bong Su.

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