NOODLING: The vermicelli combo at Asian Bistro features thin rice noodles. Photograph by Amy Buchanan
Hidden in plain sight is the somewhat generic-sounding Asian Bistro in Campbell, a source for both Vietnamese and Chinese food. It’s located in an area not surrounded by other Asian restaurants, and from the outside, the building is unremarkable, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well Asian Bistro delivered on both cuisines.
The website boasts a fresh bowl of pho that uses local and organic ingredients and honors the tradition of the dish. The server told me that all the ingredients were prepared at the time of the order. Of everything I tried, the pho took the longest but was worth the wait.
The broth was light and the meat succulent; you could taste the freshness of the cilantro and onions. The simple, dynamic flavors embodied the essence of a bowl of pho. First, my server brought out a plate of crisp bean sprouts, jalapenos, basil leaves, lime wedges, and hot and tangy sauces, letting me know that they were all for the pho. She was very friendly, freely offering suggestions and explanations of the food on the menu. She teased me for ordering so much, and frequently hinted that I order more—you know, for leftovers
The restaurant is nicely decorated and has a casual atmosphere. It seems to be catering to non-natives; the menu, for instance, is entirely in English. I don’t think the word “pho” even appeared; the dish is listed as “beef noodle soup.”
For $7.95, I ordered the combo, which comes with rare steak, brisket, tendon, beef balls and tripe. Obviously, the pho is a main feature on the Vietnamese side of the menu, but I also ordered the vermicelli combo for $8.95. In Vietnamese cuisine, vermicelli are thin rice noodles, as opposed to the slightly thicker semolina-based Italian pasta. The combo plate comes with veggies, mint leaves, peanuts, grilled beef, chicken, shrimp, pork and a crispy imperial roll. Whereas the pho shined though its simplicity, the vermicelli succeeded in its complexity. The flavors of the cucumbers, carrots and the onions, as well as the still sizzling, lightly seasoned meats, all competed for attention. It was delicious.
After chef Andy Lau took over and moved the restaurant to its current location, he added Chinese food. Lau, originally from Vietnam, moved to the Bay Area a couple decades ago. He has worked at different restaurants ever since, including Anna Lien’s in Napa, Red Shallot in Fairfield and Kang Nam in Oakland. Chinese food is one of his passions, and at Asian Bistro, he cooks curries, chow mein, chow fun and fried rice. I ordered the fried-rice combo (beef, chicken and shrimp) and the chow fun combo (beef, chicken and shrimp)—$8.50 each. Both delivered fresh, smooth flavors.
851 W. Hamilton Ave., Campbell; 408.379.3188
Looking for more restaurant options in Campbell? Visit SanJose.com’s Campbell Dining Guide.