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Cordon Bleu
1574 California Street/Polk St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
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Pretrial hearing at this nearby bar
8/28/01

Vardigan

Why didn't anyone send me to Cordon Bleu six years ago, when I moved to this land? Last week this place became an instant classic on my list of restaurants.

You've got a couple tables in the back, but you want to be at the counter here. There you get a view of the tireless twosome cooking over a grill and four burners, ancient pots boiling and chicken parts turned over and over on the slats. The vent supposedly taking the smoke out the roof, well, it doesn't work. By the time our meals came the failures called my eyes were burning inside their contact-lensed shells. My pupils were being slow-smoked, like brisket, but the hell with it, risk the irritation -- you want to see this man grill things with his long skinny gnarled arms.

What they produce is heaping helpings of delicious Vietnamese füd: #5 (which we all got) came with things my fellow judges have already described, so I'll tell you what I liked best: the grilled pork "kebab," which I feared would lose some edibility after being turned hundreds of times over the flames, but it came out perfectly charred and still very chewable.

I couldn't even finish the füd, great as it was. That's how much they give you, and at $7.40, well that's a five-dog bargain. However, we ordered a grilled pork chop that we never received (but weren't charged for), and getting the check proved to be nearly impossible, which brings my rating in just shy of five. So close! Go eat there. (By the way, it's just two doors down from the Lumiere theater.)

 

McClure

Oh, how this place brought back the memories. I hadn't been in years and I had to ask myself why. It's too damn good to blow off. A hole in the wall, yes, but one of the tastiest belly-filling meals around. What a treat to sit at the counter and watch the master perform, a wiz at the grill that man is. There are about 10 seats at the counter and a few tables to accommodate groups of three or four.

To get a taste of just about everything on the menu I recommend the #5. Check this out: #5 = 1/4 of a chicken, shish kebab, imperial roll, rice with meat sauce and country salad, all for only $7.40 ($8.02 including tax). The five-spice chicken is stupendous with those magical spices and yummy flame-grilled flavor. The kebab is a thinly sliced piece of pork, once again grilled to perfection and, oh yeah, full of flavor.

The imperial roll is filled with goodness and deep fried specially for you to a crispy, crunchy texture that has few comparisons. A definite treat is the rice, or more precisely the meat sauce on the rice. It may be there as a side dish, for filler, but what a way to get filled -- it could be a meal in itself. The country salad is like a slaw without the dressing, a refreshing way to cleanse the palate between the taste sensations.

The owners? Brother and sister? Wife and husband? A couple of pals? And their back room helper does a great job preparing, cooking, and serving you up a fantastic meal. The place pretty much runs like a well-oiled machine. Since my last visit they've added a few items to the menu. Some sort of chicken salad and something, a noodle salad, that appears to be along the lines of the infamous Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuons. I must give that a go and I ain't waiting a few years this time to get my arse back to the Bleu. So don't you waste any more time thinking about it. Get on over and give the Cordon Bleu a try.

 

Turner

Cordon Bleu is a Vietnamese BBQ joint, not a French bistro, so keep that in mind when you go. The operation would be quite at home in a shack just off the highway, and the focus is solely on serving up heaps of tasty grub cheaply. They succeed at that, no doubt.

We sat at the counter, where I could have leaned over and snatched a sizzling hunk of meat off the grill, or patted the grizzled grill man on the back for doing such a swell job. We were basically sitting in the kitchen, but then, so was everyone else. The place is SMALL. Don't forget the to-go option, and if you eat in, enjoy the folksy BBQ shack atmosphere.

They've got a series of combo meals that should satisfy anyone, and we chose the deluxe: Number 5. That would be a virtual tower of tasty Viet vittles. The foundation is rice with a tomato meat sauce. Maybe that's the French influence in Vietnam, who knows, but I know it's tasty and hearty. On top of the foundation we find the five-spice chicken. I reckon that means the Chinese blend called Five Spice is in the marinade, which is soaked deep down into this extremely well-grilled bird. Damn that was good. Across the mound we find the "shish kebab" which I think got misnamed in translation. It's more like the thin pork slabs you find in Korean barbecue. Pretty sure it was pork... This, too, is deeply marinated and char-grilled to perfection and a little sweeter than the chicken. Oh lord. But wait! There's more! Don't forget the jumbo crispy deep-fried imperial roll filled with veggies and meat (very good) and the "country salad" on the side. Country salad is cole slaw, but this one is not bad. Lightly dressed, just a little something sweet and sour going on there.

For eight bucks, this is an astounding value, and Cordon Bleu largely typifies what The Füd Court is seeking. Solid eats without pretension. Although they forgot our extra pork chop, we sure didn't need it. Our check was late, but the waiter/cook/cashier had cut her finger. Both forgivable for such a little gem of a place. Add it all up and you get a five corn dog rating from this judge. Go get it.

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