I am looking for any Vietnamese restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area that serves spicy beef. It is grilled beef, wrapped in grape leaves which are then grilled and served with a dipping sauce.
Looking for a specific Vietnamese dish [SFBA]
I looked at your post as I am always looking for great Vietnamese food. I can’t help with SF Bay area restaurants but if you’re ever in NJ, Pho Viet Express in Toms River has beef wrapped in grape leaves . It is delicious.
Good luck finding it more locally.
You might be thinking of bo la lot which is grilled beef rolled in a betel leaf which looks like a grape leaf. Anh Hong at 808 Geary in San Francisco and Anh Hong at 735 International Blvd in Oakland not far from Lake Merritt both have in on their menus. I haven’t tried it there or any place else yet. Other restaurants may also have it.
edited to add: just found a Mark Wiens video about bo la lot in Saigon:
Pho Viet Express specifically describes the dish as grape leaves. I am not familiar with betel leaves. Would grape leaves be considered a more available substitute?
Apparently wild betel leaves are available in California at Asian markets and the leaves have an aromatic and peppery flavor but I personally have not bought them.
Food Network proposes using grape leaves as a substitute if wild betel are not available:
Because la lot leaves are very hard to find in the West, this recipe is usually made using grape leaves, which make an excellent substitute. Grape leaves are widely available in supermarkets and middle-eastern specialty shops. This dish is often part of the “Beef Seven Ways” ritual in Vietnamese cooking.
Wow! Thanks for sharing your research.
You could also try Indian Markets it is called “Paan Patta” Used for Pujas as well as wrapping Paan
Le Cheval/Oakland and Nong Thon/El Cerrito also do beef la lot. I prefer their versions to Anh Hong/Oakland, but YMMV.
I would imagine a number of restaurants in the South Bay/San Jose offer it, as the Vietnamese community down there is a huge presence. It’s often served at banquets and for special occasions.
Agreed San Jose has many more full scale Vietnamese Restaurants rather than Noodle Joints.
What differences did you notice between the bo la lot versions at Le Cheval, Nong Thon and Anh Hong?
Anh Hong uses a little more sugar in their dishes than I like to see. Not as much as some of their peers, but Le Cheval and Nong Thon are closer to the first beef la lot I ate.
Beef la lot was a dish I first tried in the 1980’s when a Vietnamese friend would take us to hole-in-the-wall places where nobody spoke English. Only a few places offered it, so she kindly arranged a banquet for our group - everything from sticky rice stuffed chicken to crab-asparagus soup (my spouse has been disappointed in every other version of this soup ever since) to the beef la lot. I believe there were eight or nine courses, cooked by an older man who had been a high-ranking diplomat in Saigon, only to lose everything when the U.S. withdrew.
I wish I’d taken notes on the meal, but that was way back when, before I realized so many of the amazing places I ate at in those days were going to eventually disappear, and we would never find most of those dishes ever again.
Thank you for the tip.
Please be aware that this betel leaf (Piper betle - used for wrapping the stimulant areca nut and/or tobacco) is different than the culinary betel leaf (Piper sarmentosum/lolot) used for the Vietnamese beef dish
Thanks for that. I did not know that.
Oh! I remember this dish from a small unremarkable Vietnamese joint in Providence, RI decades ago. They had two kinds of roll dishes like this; I was thinking of it at Tam Tam in Palo Alto just a few days ago. Now I know what to look for; thanks for the reminder.