It’s not often that I find something on a menu around here that I just have never seen before.
But that’s what I found at Koi Bistro, the Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant that just opened in the old Golden Coin Chinese restaurant space on Nob Hill Boulevard. Going in, my experience with Vietnamese cuisine was pretty much limited to a few bowls of pho. So I was excited to see something called “South Vietnamese meatloaf” as part of the special rice plate, which also includes shrimp, pork and a fried egg for $9.50. I like shrimp, pork, rice and fried eggs, so even if this meatloaf didn’t work, I’d still have a good lunch.
But that meatloaf, which I have since learned is popularly called cha lua, was great. It’s basically pork, ground to a light, almost-pate texture, rolled in some kind of casing and boiled. It was my second favorite thing on the plate behind only the thin strips of pork, which were seasoned and cooked perfectly, giving them a slightly sweet and but somehow still light-and-fresh flavor. The shrimp were good, too. And the egg was, well, an egg. But I am firm believer in the idea that every dish is improved by adding a fried egg. So I was happy to have it.
I also ordered the goi cuo appetizer: two spring rolls stuffed with thin noodles, barbecue pork and shrimp, served with peanut sauce, for $4.75. They were huge. If I’d eaten both I would have had no room left for my special rice plate. Each had four shrimp and several pieces of pork.
Koi Bistro also features a Chinese buffet that costs $9 for lunch and $11 for dinner, Monday through Thursday, and $11.75 all day Saturday and Sunday.
Address: 1606 W. Nob Hill Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays