photo credit: Erin Ng

Bodega SF review image

Bodega SF


138 Mason St, San Francisco
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The bánh khọt from Bodega SF are no ordinary bánh khọt. These turmeric-tinted shrimp pancakes are zhuzhed up with caviar for added decadence. They’re an example of what you’ll get during your meal: impressive Northern Vietnamese dishes punched up with unexpected surprises. On top of these fancy dishes, the Tenderloin spot’s casual, down-to-earth energy draws us back.

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Bodega SF is a rebirth. It’s run by the family behind Bodega Bistro, which shut its doors in 2017 before evolving into a pop-up. The newest iteration still focuses on Northern Vietnamese dishes. They’ve also created a stylish space—with funky geometric overhead lights and dark wood pillars—that inspires us to kick back for hours over cocktails infused with pandan and Vietnamese coffee, plus family-style appetizers and entrées, like bun cha and whole-fried branzino. Sink into a semi-private booth and debrief the latest celebrity breakup while Kehlani and Jack Harlow pump through the speakers—Bodega SF feels like an Outside Lands lineup ran into a neighborhood bar. So it's no surprise that this spot works as well for birthday dinners you reserve a few weeks out as it does for tourists looking for lunch after a morning of Union Square window shopping. 

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

You could spin 15 times, eyes closed, point a finger at the page-long menu, and land on a dish worth shouting about through a bullhorn from the top of the Transamerica Pyramid. Bodega SF’s strengths are combining traditional flavors and interesting new ones. There’s truffle butter in the shaking beef, yuzu coconut foam on the oysters, and even crumbled beef jerky atop the papaya salad. Salty, spicy, sweet, and umami flavors also shine through. Lemongrass clams arrive soaking in surprisingly spicy broth balanced by mildly fruity kumquat fish sauce. The bò tái chanh is a mix of thin-sliced filet mignon, citrus-y fish sauce, and crispy shallots—it must be on your table, full stop. Another non-negotiable is the bánh cuốn, with mushroom and ground pork filling swaddled in delicate rice sheets. They’re a perfect, chewy consistency. 

A night at Bodega SF, shuffling around plates and trying bites of everything, reminds us of being at a dinner party at our friend’s house, and one where the food plating is more detail-oriented than a Shonda Rhimes plotline. Everything tastes incredible, too. So until Bodega SF shape-shifts into something else in the future (though, we certainly hope this iteration stays), you’ll find us here with a bánh khọt in one hand and a pandan cocktail in the other.

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Food Rundown

Chef’s Tasting

A great option is the chef’s tasting menu ($88). It’s an eight-course parade of their best dishes from the a la carte menu, like the bánh khọt and whole-fried branzino. The meal ends with a mini bowl of pho, mochi pandan cake, and salted egg coffee.

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

Bánh Khọt Caviar

These crispy shrimp pancakes ($16 each) are crowned with caviar, a great twist that adds extra saltiness to an already excellent dish. They're some of our favorite bites of the night.

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

Bò Tái Chanh

Your entire table will gun for the final bite of this chilled beef dish. The filet mignon soaks up the fish sauce and lime juice like a sponge. Order this.

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

Bánh Cuốn

The earthy mix of mushrooms, ground pork, and a few slices of pork sausage make up the filling of this wiggly bánh cuốn. The chewy rice sheets holding these rolls together are delicate to the point of tearing when you pull them apart. They taste so good, we don’t mind.

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

Lemongrass Clams

The broth these clams are in is warm and spicy—think of it as your personal space heater as it makes your way down your throat. Be sure to add some kumquat fish sauce onto each one for a sweet finish.

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

Bun Cha

The bun cha of your dreams. The bowl of tender meatballs and thin slices of pork belly comes with a tangle of vermicelli noodles and more fresh herbs than a flourishing garden. Wrap everything in lettuce or mix it all together in a bowl—either way, you’ll be thinking about this dish for a while.

Whole Fish Cha Ca

The whole-fried branzino is brightened up with a healthy amount of galangal, crispy shallots, and dill. The light and crispy skin practically sparkles. This is a great main to share if you’re eating with more than one other person.

Bodega SF review image

photo credit: Erin Ng

Mochi Pandan Bar

An impeccable finisher. The bright green mochi cake gives off a fragrant scent you'll want in candle form. Creamy coconut gelato from Marco Polo tops it off.

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