By Blair Kriz
If you’re looking for authentic foreign cuisine that any student who’s from that country would tell you isn’t actually authentic, Oakland has plenty of options. From chicken named after a Chinese general who probably didn’t exist to pizza with toppings that make famous Italian chefs roll in their graves, we’ve got it all. However, I have found a restaurant that provides an experience so authentic you’ll feel like you studied abroad for a semester and now need to tell everyone about it.
After my disappointing experience at Panther House Bar and Grill last weekend (I mean, they’re called ‘Panther House’ but they don’t even take Panther Funds!), I decided I needed something different, which leads us to this week’s restaurant. Located so deep in South Oakland that no sober person has ever been there, Pho Kin Authentic Vietnamese sets the atmosphere as soon as you walk in. Instead of hanging “traditional” artwork like many faux ethnic restaurants, this place decorates its walls to look like the jungles of Vietnam. I would have appreciated this a lot more had I not brought along my Grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran. As we walked in and saw this decor, two of the servers were speaking to each other in their native language, which caused Grandpa to start yelling “The trees are speaking Vietnamese again!” After calming him down and apologizing to the staff, we took our seats and started looking at the menu.
I ended up ordering a Long Island bubble tea and pho with beef brisket. What I did not order, however, was an appetizer. This made me very surprised when after a while they brought out a small plate of bean sprouts, lime wedges, and some strange leaves. I quickly ate them as I was hungry, but only when our dinner came out moments later did I realize that they were supposed to go in the soup. After serving our food, the waitress looked at the empty plate, shook her head, and walked away disappointedly muttering something. My Vietnamese is a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure I picked up the words “White ass bitch.”
My pho was good, it could have used some bean sprouts but I guess that’s my fault. Dinner was going well – at least until it happened. After grandpa’s incident earlier, they stopped playing jungle noises and started playing Vietnamese covers of the summer hits of 2008. But they soon ran out and switched to a local classic rock station, which started playing Fortunate Son. The song instantly brought Grandpa back to the 1960s in ‘Nam for the second time that day. He ran into the kitchen, armed himself with a frying pan, and yelled “Get out of here, the rice paddies ain’t safe!” He then went on a rampage emptying the cupboards and flipping over all the tables looking for the Vietcong.
I had an amazing meal at Pho Kin and give it a perfect five out of five stars, and I’m not just saying that because they know where I live.