On our last trip up the hill, while waiting outside for Rob's order -- we're always waiting on Rob's order -- we spent some time giggling at the "remedies" being offered by the herbalist at the Viet-Wah Asian grocer. "Valuable Ant Kidney: Take effect in 15 minutes and last for 180 hours. Makes it big, thick, long-lasting, increasing sperms." Another was a mix of Engrish plus a careful misspelling, "Herbage Vaigra: Made in USA". Amidst our chortles we noticed that there is a lunch counter and eating area inside the Viet-Wah. So today we headed up to give it a try.
Luncher: EmmettLunch: Ginger Chicken and "Big Eyed Jack Fish" Lunch Special - $5.00
This place is like the ghetto bastard stepchild of Uwajimaya. They have lots of groceries, shelves stocked full of deals and weirdness. And then there's the food court. If you can even call it that.
This place has a heated selection behind glass, and they also do sandwiches. The glass is a bit faded in color, colored no doubt by the gaseous grease emanating from the options. The food appears to have been simmering in its broth for god knows how many days. It's like they arrive in the morning, flip the switch, wait 10 minutes, and serve.
Going with well-cooked and fried meats for safety's sake, I went for the chicken wings in sauce, along with the fried fish. He put some rice in a plate, tossed the fish on there, then spooned the chicken wings, along with the viscous, gooey sauce, all over the whole shebang. The chicken was cooked; it had flavor. The fish, interestingly, was fine.
I believe you could find someone to do anything for the right price. It'd be a high price to get them to eat here.
Luncher: AdamLunch: Chicken Banh Mi and Combo Banh Mi Sandwiches - 2 x $2.25
We eat at a lot of awesome restaurants, but let it be known that Viet-Wah's deli counter is at the exact opposite end of that spectrum.
We ambled up to the counter, and I was expecting something in the same vein as Uwajimaya's Steam Stable, but was presented with something out of a grosser version of Maxang. I looked at the tubs of week-old (I'm speculating) gooey seafood dishes, and decided that none of it was passable. I turned my gaze above the counter to the menu showing noodle soups, rice dishes, and a handful of other things. I ordered from that menu, only to learn that they don't actually make anything listed on the menu. I switched to the Banh Mi menu; can't go wrong with a sandwich. I ordered a couple of them from the Bahn Mi menu, only to find out that they only serve Pork, Chicken, or Combo Banh Mi... again, total disregard for signage they-themselves had posted. Anyways, I was eventually able to get a couple of sandwiches ordered.
Bottom line: run, don't walk, past the deli counter in Viet-Wah.
On a side note, the grocery part of Viet-Wah is awesome and has lots of great stuff to eat and cook with.
Luncher: GearyLunch: Catfish + Crab Combo Lunch Special - $5.00
Viet-Wah is an authentic Asian market. It was similar to Uwajimaya before Uwajimaya remodeled and went all modern. Back in the day Viet-Wah was my first choice ID grocer. But it has let itself go and has a bit of a run down feel to it now. However, it still has an amazing assortment. The vegetables and seafood sections are particularly impressive. It's one of the few places in town where you can get live blue crab. Today we took a right past the Chinese medicine apothecary into the Viet-Wah Deli. The counter has a selection of prepared dishes in a warmer that for $5 you get a choice of two over rice. There are also various posted menu items, but we found that today few of those were actually available. I went with the $5 lunch special and chose the Dungeness crab in gooey sauce and the catfish steaks in teriyaki-like sauce. It was truly an amazing amount of seafood for $5. I got almost an entire half of a crab, claw plus two legs and a large body section, and two catfish steaks on a pile of rice. There was some confusion at the counter, and the man serving us motioned for me to sit down and pay later.
The gooey crab was very hard to eat. It is apparently customary in many Asian countries to eat the crab shell. I wasn't sure if that was the intention here, but it would make fighting through the sticky goo possible. I tried this with the body section with some success, but I fell back to my Western ways when it came to the legs and especially the claw. As it was, I ended up with a big sliver of claw shell stuck between my teeth from cracking it open. Other than the logistics of getting at the meat, the crab was good. The gooey sauce was slightly sweet and salty and the meat fresh and tender. The catfish was also tasty. It was cooked in a soy sauce mixture similar to teriyaki, but wasn't at all sweet.
Other than the battle with the crab shell, my lunch was tasty, but the cluttered, messy deli and eating area didn't really sit well with me. We all agreed that this is the kind of place that the 8 hour rule* was meant for. While I might be tempted to give four chopsticks for the food alone, the rest of the dining experience brings me back down to a solid 3.
After eating we wandered the aisles a bit and then left. I didn't realize until later in the day that I had dined and dashed. I went back up the next day to try and pay, and it took the help of two other customers with more versatile language skills than I to convey what I was trying to do to the woman behind the counter.
* The 8 hour rule: We don't release our posts until at least 8 hours after the meal to be sure we account for any food borne illnesses.
Luncher: AlLunch: Egg Rolls + "Meatball" bowl - $4.00
Orangey meatloaf bowl – looked odd; tasted o.k.; sat like lead in my stomach. 2 chopsticks
Viet-Wah Deli PhotosViet-Wah
Hot Deli Items
More Deli Items
Catfish + Crab Combo Lunch Special
Ginger Chicken and "Big Eyed Jack Fish" Lunch Special
Egg Rolls + "Meatball" bowl
Close up of Al's Meatball bowl
Combo Banh Mi
Chicken Banh Mi
Egg Roll Chip Lumpia Snack
Viet-Wah vegetable & fruit aisle
Viet-Wah vegetable & fruit aisle
Viet-Wah Chinese Medicine Store
Service counter at Chinese Medicine Store
Chinese Medicine offerings
Valuable Ant Kidney
Herbage Vaigra & Seadog Pills