[East Oakland] The Temple Club- Central Vietnamese food that wows.

more photos (might need to scroll to top of page to see all of them) -

I ventured out to Temple Club a few days ago for a weekday lunch and was quite impressed though only tried the pho bo chua ( beef brisket street bowl for $7) and need to go back for more tastes.

I didn’t guage the parking situation since I took the AC Transit Line 1 International Blvd which stops at 23rd Avenue, only a few yards from the entrance of the restaurant and runs about every 10-15 minutes, depending on the time of day.

Chef Geoff Deetz was there zipping around the kitchen and later doing some paperwork on his Apple computer at a dining table along the west wall. There were about a half dozen visible luncheoneers seated and later in the meal I noticed about 4 people descending the staircase from the mezzanine who I couldn’t see before.

I was tempted to order the king mackerel street bowl but instead went for the famous pho bo chua (beef brisket street bowl for $7).

There was a buzz around the room from some of the staff which may have been generated by a favorable review just published in the East Bay Express by Janelle Bitker, probably the first full-fledged piece on the new menu. It seemed like they felt that they had good reason to anticipate a crowd for dinner that evening.

The bowl arrived within a few minutes. I played with small tastes of the pickled garlic and hot sauces in the 4-part plastic condiment tray but wanted to try the soup unadulterated, at least until the end.

The beef slices were tender, thin and with few pockets of fat. The broth was deep and intense with a balance of savory and a representative puckery vinegar edge. I would have preferred the noodles to be more al dente.

What was appreciated most, I believe, was the absence of cloying saltiness from either the broth or meat. Something too briny, which this bowl was not, says to me that somebody is trying to hide something.

Chef Deetz has taken a bold move camping out on International Blvd. and, as Bitker pointed out, he has paid his dues with 16 years in Vietnam.

What happens to International Blvd. in the next few years could be an interesting story. New King at 2nd Ave. and Int’l has its windows papered over which might mean a change. It was the original site of Pho Ao Sen, now on 12th Street in a larger and more luxurious location as well as having tried to branch out to Albany. At some point the Bus Rapid Transit lanes along International are planned to be installed.

Maybe after the Holidays, we can talk about a group lunch at Temple Club.


Thank you all for helping us spread the word about The Temple Club and for your support. lets look at just a small thing that was brought up by the EBX. While immigrants come here lacking funds, connections and languages they do come here with the family tree and support to open these places with little labour cost.

This of course is the highest cost we endure. This provides the immigrants the ability to survive longer than others in some cases. I see the filed as more level here as I came back here with no funding and have to endure staff costs while trying to open a place in a lower rent area.

This does have some advantages such as if I do make it I can help be a anchor to attract more people to open more places near and around me. Getting involved in an area like where I am is vital to the other businesses that have already opened near me and need the attention of the media.

But the other places must understand you have to have something to draw people in and be able to create a customer experience that makes them want to return with friends. This is the key in my opinion that the immigrant business owners need to learn and or have faith in themselves. Im hoping that doing food that they would not due can show them that they can and should do.

I hope as a community we can all help encourage diversity and innovation even if its not new but very traditional food that can help give more color to the area.

Thanks, Geoffrey


Well, its not that these places aren’t drawing people in. The pho joints and the BBH places in SF and SJ are pretty packed also. So I suspect that its just ‘if its not broken, why fix it?’ But I am not sure the reason why the Vietnamese restaurants here haven’t branched out beyond noodles, com tam, banh mi. But if they are bringing in customers, the way they cook is actually cheaper- get a couple of broth, and have a million combination of meat parts. get a banh mi baguette, different meat again.
cook some rice, get a number of com tam accompaniment.

I haven’t sampled the Vietnamese scene in SJ extensively but even there, it seems like there aren’t many that are very different from the usual type. Off the top of my head I can only think of Vung Tau. Slanted Door and Khai in SF. Others more knowledgeable can chime in. Perhaps the Vietnamese population want those ‘typical’ dishes. The Temple Club does bring in a different set of customers with probably different expectations. The one time I was there, there were perhaps more tables with non-Vietnamese-looking customers than Vietnamese.

In SF at least, Tuyet Mai in the Tenderloin has mi quang, banh beo, banh khot, bun mam, and other dishes not super commonly found in Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area. As does Mong Thu Café across the street, although their menu is much smaller.

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Chris Ying’s piece in the Chronicle:

I recall having a BBH at Tuyet Mai years ago. How’s their other stuff?

I like Tuyet Mai’s mi quang and banh khot. Their bun mam and bun bo hue are pretty good but I like the versions of those at Mong Thu Café nearby a bit more.

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The third meal was fairly good.

Nem cua be- ground pork with crab and shrimp with glass noodles and woodear wrapped around by a fried glutinous rice outer layer fried. Papaya fish sauce and herbs accompanied the rolls. Pretty savory and good. Not quite sure what to do with the herbs though.

Tom chien com- Large shrimps fried with an outer layer of ‘rice cake’ with a honey chili sauce. Never seen this type of batter before so its interesting to me.

Thit kho trung- braised pork shoulder with a fried egg served bubbling hot in the stone pot. Pretty good for a cold day.

Goi sua- it seemed fairly similar to the goi tai heo salad with pig ears, with jellyfish this time.

Mi quang: big size, with frog legs. The difference this time was we could taste the plain noodles even after stirring, whereas last time we tasted the flavorful annatto oil. The annatto oil seemed to be underseasoned and there could be more of it.

The meal was pretty good, though it didn’t quite reach the heights of my first two as I enjoyed the great soup noodles last time. This time, we didn’t get the pho bo chua and the bun bo hue was off the menu, and the mi quang was not transcendent like last time. The greens were a little tired. Nonetheless there were lots of interesting dishes we hadn’t seen before so we will be exploring more of the menu.

Love to hear more reports.


The author sounds like he is still a bit culture-bound. It would be nice to read a similar comparison of today’s rural Vietnamese food with that of 1967 by someone who actually ate the food back then, not just “encountered” it.

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Some new-to-me items from a recent meal:

Pho ga comes with a strongly herbal tasting broth. Pho nam chay (mushroom) came with a bunch of mushroom. Both of them were very salty. I still like the corned beef pho (not on the menu that day) and the mi quang (still going strong) much better. The pho ga have potential if the chef tones down the salt. I think that mushroom pho are to round out the menu for the vegetarians.

Xao lan tho- braised rabbit in a slightly spicy coconut curry with rice. Pretty fragrant curry. Rabbit can probably be substituted with chicken since the mild rabbit meat picks up flavors similar to how chicken does. A little on the muscular side. Pretty large portion as there were like I think 7-8 pretty large chunks of rabbit. I quite liked this dish.

The tumeric flan was very good. I didn’t taste much tumeric but that’s my highlight of the meal, along with the durian cheesecake. The chef seems to be pretty good with desserts.

Looks like they are getting their alchohol license soon:

Went this weekend, they do have a Beer & Wine license now. $10 corkage for wine, no more outside beer allowed. Both times I went I had reservations on the weekend, would recommend having reservations since they seemed pretty much full. Standouts: Goi Cuon Nem Chua, fried chicken wings, Cha Kho To Ha Noi, Heo Kho Dua cai Chua, Goi Bo Hoi An.

I don’t have much experience with Vietnamese food outside of your typical Pho/Mi Bo Kho and rice plate restaurants, and 7 courses of beef, but I really enjoyed most of what I’ve had.

Weekend service whilst busy seemed scattered and unsystematic; not sure if they need more people, dedicated bus or food runners, or clearer delineation of responsibilities. But definitely could use improvement.

Hi Eric, Thank you for coming in to our place. yes we were short 3 staff this weekend night so yes we needed the extra staff that was scheduled. So sorry for that and we will keep working on this.

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How’s the rock cod like? I am trying to imagine how it tastes- tomatoes, dill and fish sauce?

Temple Club is my kind of Vietnamese restaurant, in contrast to the highly regarded more refined Slanted Door which has never wowed me despite multiple visits and high expectations.

At Temple Club the food wows me. I love the bold flavors, contrast of textures and ingredients, use of fresh herbs, lack of heaviness from too much fat and MSG. The food here tastes vibrant and more like food I had while visiting Vietnam.

Here is what we ate on our third visit Friday night:

Goi Sua- an absolutely addictive salad of jellyfish, chicken, green papaya, fish sauce. A riot of textures and flavors.

Saigon Banh Xeo- a rice flour crepe with shrimp. Served with lettuce for wrapping and fresh herbs (basil, mint and rau ram) and a dipping sauce with carrots and daikon. A super tasty version with delicious crunchy shrimp.

Mi Quang Phu Chiem- a noodle dish with pork, little shrimp, annato oil, crushed peanuts and fresh herbs. Lots of different layers of flavor and textures. Excellent.


Looks like the chef has settled on some proven winners now that Temple Club has been open for a few months. What other noodles besides the Mi Quang are on offer these days? Did they put the bun bo hue back on?

I wish they have their current menu online.

I went here last night, finally! Why did I wait so long? Since I was with friends, I didn’t whip out my phone and take photos of the menu and our food because we were too busy catching up.

We shared the Xao Lan Chay, Heo Kho Dua Cai Chua (the table favorite - tender stewed pork with acidity coming from the pickled mustard greens), and Rau Muong Xao Toi (water spinach). Next time, I’ll save room for the durian cheesecake. I thought we ordered conservatively and would have space to split dessert, but the portions were so generous that our party of 3 couldn’t finish it all and needed a couple of take out boxes. I am coming back soon with more friends, because this place is a gem and I don’t think most people have had Vietnamese food like this. I spent a week in Hue, but I didn’t encounter dishes like these during my short visit.

One thing to note: they are a cash-only establishment now. There were multiple signs posted saying so, but if you only carry plastic, they do provide an ATM for your convenience.


We went last night again.

Everything was great. Standouts were:

Butterflied shrimp with a coating of immature green rice- a relevatory take on fried shrimp with spicy chili sauce. The coating was both crunchy and chewy at the same time. The shrimp were very fresh. The chili sauce was not overly sweet. This was a dish that added up to more than the sum of its parts. The unique crunchy/chewy texture of the coating, fresh shrimp flavor and spicy chili sauce came together in a delicious way that

Water Spinach. I think the price was ~$5.50. One of the best things I have eaten all year. I’ve enjoyed water spinach on trips to Asia but rarely find good versions on the US- usually the texture is too tough. This version was perfectly executed- the water spinach was tender. Garlic, fried shallot and wok char flavors combined with the smoky flavor of the water spinach to create a spectacular dish.


We visited Temple Club a few months ago with Christina Mitchell’s EBay Dishing group. Really enjoyed it, and my DH and I ended up having a nice bit of conversation with Chef Deetz.

We’ve been eating Vietnamese food since the first wave of hole-in-the-wall restaurants opened in the 1980’s, where the staffs hardly spoke any English so if you didn’t have someone to translate you couldn’t order, LOL. Fortunately we had a friend who took us around and introduced us to the cuisine, including the very rare Vietnamese/French banquet dishes that aren’t often seen even now.

I’m a broken record on complaining that Asian food is getting progressively sweeter and less interesting with every decade. Chef Dietz agreed, saying (in Vietnam) the Southern Vietnamese food especially now suffers from way too much sugar, while the Northern Vietnamese use an excess of MSG.

He said the big food corps have moved into Asia. So the distinctive labor-intensive, small farm foods are becoming rarer as the older generation dies off, with little interest by the younger generations in holding onto the traditions - what one might call the “Starbucks mystique” gaining prominence.

The distinctive green rice crust on the shrimp, for example, is very labor intensive and only produced by two families now. It was once a village specialty, but these days hardly anyone makes it. Chef Deetz said much of the green rice flakes sold now is commercially produced and artificially colored!

We’re all very fortunate he and his family decided to return to the States and settle here in the EBay. It’s great that the community and critics are supporting his efforts to do authentic traditional Central Vietnamese cooking. It’s really unique in the SFBA.


According to Tablehopper, closed until the owner can find another location.