A Vietnamese feast at Temple Club in Oakland

by foodhoe on February 21, 2018

2307 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601 | 510-479-3680 | TempleClubOakland.com

So there I was, driving up and down International Blvd in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood (which is somewhere in between Fruitvale and Lake Merritt), looking for a sign.  It is a long dark stretch that is mostly marked no parking because it is a landing strip for gigantic Oakland transit buses, so I was reluctant to get out without knowing where I was going. And where was that you’re wondering? I was looking for the Temple Club, a newish restaurant that is getting a lot of attention, considering it is so off the beaten path.  I mean, I really can’t imagine Michael Bauer, the food critic for the Chronicle hanging out in the hood.  So yeah, I drove up and down a few  times before I finally noticed the sign on the only building with the lights on.

I joined my friend Christina of East Bay Dish and her meet up group for dinner because I can’t resist it when someone says Let’s go together so we can taste everything.  That is my favorite way to explore the menu – more people means more food!  The walls are painted with bright and vivid colors, I loved the wall art.  And the menu is also full of bold and exciting flavors that changes daily depending on what’s available.

The chef Geoffrey Deetz spent the past 16 years in Vietnam where he opened or consulted for a number of eateries, in both Saigon and Hanoi. He wants to showcase food exactly as it’s served in Vietnam, small plates intended to be eaten family-style with rice, a type of cooking that is apparently hard to find on the menu of most pho- and banh mi-centric Vietnamese restaurants.  I was glad that there were more than ten of us so we were able to order a lot, prepare your eyes!

I got the Make your own lime soda kit ($3), a bottle of fizzy water, a small cup of simple syrup, a few fresh lime wedges and a cup of ice.

Goi Cuon Nem Chua ($9.50), spring rolls filled with housemade grilled sour pork sausage, black pepper, sesame leaf, baby greens, rice noodles with sesame and served with a rich pork liver sauce.  The sausage had crunchy gristly bits and I loved the fresh flavors from the perilla leaf wrapped up with the lettuce and the fried shallots added a sweet earthy flavor and aroma.

The Tom Chien Com, were kind of crazy looking, bright green and covered with rice krispies.  This was some deep fried bliss, juicy shrimp, covered in a crunchy batter that has a hint of stickiness when you bite in, served with an exhilarating honey-chili dipping sauce ($12.95)

Goi Sua, Jellyfish, chicken green papaya, cabbage, herbs, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds and spicy garlic fish sauce with shrimp crackers ($14.50).  This is salady with brilliant flavors from all the fresh herbs and nuts, and so good scooped up with the crunchy shrimp crackers.

Goi Bo Hoi An, Tamarind marinated beef, green papaya, cherry tomatoes, onion, banana flower and herbs in a tamarind fish sauce $14.75.  Another salady dish but with totally different ingredients and flavors.

We got a couple of bowls filled with crunchy shrimp crackers to scoop stuff up with.  I love how these crackers stick to your tongue!

Ca Nic Khao Thom Bone in Mackerel cooked in a clay pot with fresh pineapple, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, shallots, thai chili, black pepper and served with steamed rice or rice noodles $14.75  The fantastic vivid flavors complemented the rich fatty fish, it was so good spooned over rice.

Heo Khao Dua Cai Chua, boneless pork stewed with pickled mustard greens, fresh turmeric, shallots, garlic and white onions $14.75  It was like the Vietnamese version of perfectly stewed chili verde, served in a clay pot. Loved the aromatics of this flavorful fragrant dish.

Ca Kiem Um Chuoi Nghe, braised sword fish with green banana, tomatoes, shallots, green chili and fresh turmeric ($16.50).  A thick and satisfying stew, that was too spicy for me!

Ga Nuong La Chanh, fresh grilled bone in chicken with fresh slivered lime leaf and lime-salt & pepper dipping sauce with steamed rice (half $9.75 / whole $18.75).  A grilled half chicken with a deliciously crisp skin, juicy and aromatic from the fine shreds of keffir lime leaf, that is heavenly dunked in the magical lime-salt & pepper dipping sauce

Geoff’s Food Network winning dish “Pho Bo Chua“, sliced corned beef brisket, water celery, green onions, bean sprouts and sliced onions in a  sour beef broth over rice noodles  ($14.50/$7.50).  The broth was really flavorful and we couldn’t get over how good the brisket was in this dish.

Mi Quang Phu Chiem, is a celebrated dish from Quang Nam province that is the Chef’s wife’s favorite hometown meal. Rock shrimp, baby shell on shrimp (watch out!), pork, shallots, quail egg, annatto oil, tomato, crushed peanut, herbs and toasted sesame ship with a side of garlic fish sauce.  Since there ten of us, we got the bigger American size bowl for $14.50 (the street bowl is $7.50) and we asked for extra frog legs ($2).  One of many dishes that I want to go back for…

There was mixed reaction to the Durian cheesecake, to me it was delightfully light and fluffy, infused with bright tropical fruity flavors, a whiff of garlic, gasoline and vanilla.  The chef makes the desserts too by the way, and I recommend that you try this.

Turmeric Creme Brûlée, inside was a beautiful ochre color and infused with the rich earthy flavor of tumeric.  Delicious and anti-inflammatory…

I love chefs who rebel against the dumbed down Americanized palate, those bold flavors really resonate with your tastebuds – go check it out!

Tue. 5–10 p.m., Wed.–Thu. noon–3 p.m., 5–10 p.m., Sat. noon–10 p.m.
Cash, all major credit cards.
They expect to have their liquor license by the end of March 2018, and are not currently charging for corkage.

 

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