Vietnamese food ranks as a local favorite for those who love Asian eats, but if you’re in the central city and craving a quick bowl of pho at lunch hour, south Sacramento is usually too much of a trek.
Sure, there’s Pho Bac Hoa Viet on Broadway, and Star Ginger carries a few Vietnamese dishes at the corner of Folsom and Alhambra boulevards. But a new option opened in late April just down the street from Star Ginger at the corner of Alhambra Boulevard and S Street.
Coriander Vietnamese Restaurant now occupies the former space of Midtown Deli and offers a menu of flavor-forward dishes reflecting the cuisine of central Vietnam. Unlike the emphasis on seafood and pronounced Chinese influences found in the north, or the sweeter foods that are a signature of the south, central Vietnamese cooking stands apart for its bold spiciness and emphasis on small-plate dishes.
You can smell the licorice-like star anise upon entering, given that it’s a key ingredient of Coriander’s pho beef broth. The restaurant is named after the fragrant herb that’s also known as cilantro.
Our Counter Culture reviewer Allen Pierleoni recently tried to sample the goods at Coriander for dinner, but the wait was up to 40 minutes for a table. A stop during the Monday lunch rush found brisk business at the eatery, but landing a table was no problem. A chunk of the clientele appeared to come from the nearby Mercy Medical Group facilities, along with office workers who might otherwise stop across the street to the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for a quick lunch.
But will Coriander be able to hold its own against Stockton Boulevard’s finest? Here’s what you can expect at Coriander thus far.
The soup-centric entree offerings include two types of pho – beef with brisket and rib-eye steak, or free-range chicken – along with a tofu noodle soup geared for vegetarians. Seafood options include a banh canh soup with thick noodles and a medley of shrimp, crab and fish cake.
The menu also includes bun bo hue, a signature soup of central Vietnam with rice vermicelli and lemongrass broth. For those adventuresome eaters who might wonder if Coriander caters to Western tastes, the bun bo hue indeed comes with the traditional cubes of congealed pig’s blood. No, that’s not tofu.
Dessert includes two choices: a Vietnamese smoothie with jackfruit or advocado, or coconut-pineapple ice cream with pandan waffles.
The overall prices are affordable, but somewhat higher compared to other Vietnamese restaurants. The pho at Coriander costs $9, while the going rate is closer to $7.50 for an extra-large bowl at Vietnamese spots on Stockton Boulevard.