Sunrise Restaurant229 G St.
Davis, CA 95616
When one SN&R reader goes to the trouble of recommending a restaurant to review, particularly in an e-mail to our editor in chief and the arts editor, who rides shotgun over me, only a few seconds pass before I leap into my chicks-dig-me Volvo station wagon and get the J-O-B done.
In this instance, it required traveling to Sunrise Restaurant in Davis. The family-run, Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant is catty-corner from the higher-end KetMoRee Thai restaurant showcased here in September.
The e-mail to the big boss touting Sunrise, in part, says this: “I have enjoyed reading Greg Lucas’ column on great dining.” (Questionable taste from the get-go.) It goes on: “It is privately owned by a married couple and I love the food there. The prices are the best in Davis, especially for college students. They hardly get any business because it is difficult to spot, therefore, it is never too busy. The staff are wonderfully nice and the food is always exceptional. My favorite is the Crispy Fried Noodle dish. Thanks, U. Pham.”
The husband and wife duo who run Sunrise are, indeed, wonderfully nice, although they could use a hand. Ordering fresh-squeezed lemonade ends up being the last item to arrive at the table and, while it is refreshing, it comes in a lidded plastic to-go cup with straw.
Can’t say I share U. Pham’s enthusiasm for the crispy fried noodles, though. They aren’t terribly crispy, and the accompanying vegetables seem pre-fab. This Chinese entrée compares poorly to the fresh goi ga, a cabbage and chicken salad appetizer fired up by Olympic rings of jalapeño.
Vegetarians will rejoice at Sunrise’s 11 offerings, varying from lemongrass tofu in chili sauce to the seemingly contradictory “vegetarian fried fish with ginger sauce.” All are in the $5 range.
U. Pham is right about the prices being right for students. At $6.25, the crispy fried noodles are darn near the most expensive item on the menu, eclipsed only by mi vit quay, the $6.75 roasted duck noodle soup. The chicken salad is a steal at $5.25. Indeed, as Sunrise’s matriarch rings up my meal, a female patron stops bobbing her flip-flopped foot and volunteers that this is the best value in town.
Must be, since one does not come to Sunrise for the ambience. The dark-paneled walls are decorated primarily with large photos of items from the menu. The Food Channel cooking show on the flat-screen TV is interesting and so the volume isn’t an issue. The volume of the stunningly insipid Nickelodeon cartoon apparently aimed at teaching English speakers some second language of indeterminate nature mars Sunrise’s encore performance. The encore is enhanced, however, by the hu tieu trieu chau—a big bowl of broth in which chicken, pork, beef balls, prawns and a nest of vermicelli live together in perfect harmony.
No plate of jalapeño rounds, sprouts and shredded cabbage is forthcoming, contrary to the custom at other Vietnamese places. There must be jalapeños in the kitchen, because there were some in the chicken salad. The matriarch says to use either the chili sauce or hot sauce on the table’s Lazy Susan to increase the heat.
Spot on are the $3.85 shredded pork spring rolls, bi cuon, with a carrot-laden dipping sauce whose initial sweetness belies a finish of modest afterburn.
Plenty of drink options, including the apparently ubiquitous avocado shake. And a choice of eight different Vietnamese sandwiches, from the stalwart bi minh to chicken, fish patty and, of course, vegetarian.
Sunrise’s allure to a penny-pinching UC Davis student or professor or professional looking for some inexpensive takeout is obvious. The pleasantness of the owners is infectious. Both of which lift Sunrise up a skosh from flawed-with-moments status. And thanks to U. Pham.