Quan Coc6458 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95823
Quan Coc is a type of restaurant in Vietnam, says the owner of the eatery on Stockton Boulevard near 47th Street. He doesn’t say what kind. A cafe most likely, although coc—full name trai coc—is ambarella, a tart green fruit sold by street vendors. Chao long, rice porridge with blood and pork innards, another street vendor staple, is also on the menu. So perhaps Quan Coc is an amalgam of street-vendor-type offerings, except under one roof. The Vietnamese equivalent of Samosa Garden, the Indian fast-food place on Florin Road.
Whatever kind of eating establishment it is, the owner got the place up and running in a hurry. It’s next door to Quan Nem Ninh Hoa, and when that review was written, Quan Coc was but a gleam in its owner’s eye.
The place feels like it’s a hangout. Guys are at or near the powder-blue, well-lit bar, laptops open. They look like they’ve been there a while and will be sticking around a lot longer. Habitués. There’s a small stage at the far end of the restaurant. A monstrous speaker to the right of the front door points back at the stage, suggesting that at some later hour there’s dancing and merriment.
This day the speaker is showcasing just how much volume it can muster, drowning out even contemplation of conversation with the songs and banter of what appears to be some sort of outdoor Vietnamese variety show that’s showcased on four of the six flat screens. Deafening, but the singers and dancers have got some way-cool costumes. Perhaps the voices of the other patrons wouldn’t be as loud if the speaker was lowered.
Prices are paltry and portions plentiful. Each dish is accompanied by a Mount Shasta of white rice. There’s scads of sweet but spicy lemongrass chicken. Enough for two. Similarly, the spring-roll appetizer—cha gio—is sharing-sized. The nuoc cham dipping sauce puts a spring in the spring roll’s step. And the forest of mint and basil accompanying the rolls helps tamp down the heat of the chicken.
The only thing that Quan Coc goes light on is the pickled carrot slivers, which also prove a handy flame retardant for the chicken. A square glass of tea is the first visitor to the table and is regularly refreshed. A small bowl with scallions and cilantro adrift in a simple beef broth follows. Beer is accompanied by the customary ice-filled mug.
As at all Vietnamese restaurants, there’s the usual bevy of rice dishes. And dishes featuring “broken rice,” which is stickier. Com tam dac biet, at $8.45 one of the priciest selections, has a handful of shredded pork skin and two very lightly charbroiled shrimp. It ain’t fancy, but with its Mount Shasta, it’s filling. Firing it up with some sweet chili sauce makes it even more festive. Shredded pork, shrimp and chicken also can rest on beds of vermicelli-like noodles called bun.
No bun oc on the menu, however. That would be noodles with sea snails—no doubt a dish inspired by those escargot-eating imperialists who used to occupy the country.
Unnecessary to sample a second time is the avocado shake. Did that at Pho Saigon, also on Stockton Boulevard. Got it so out of my system.
A nice bonus is that on each visit the friendly hostesses/waitresses speak spot-on English, anomalous in many Vietnamese eateries. As long as a diner knows “bac diet” means “special,” any Vietnamese menu is mastered but, nevertheless, the ability to ask questions about selections and have them answered is a major plus.
Other than the stomach-rumbling volume of the speaker blasting Vietnamese song, Quan Coc cooks. There’s savory simple food at good value that, as at any fast-food restaurant, arrives swiftly. The service is solicitous, solicitous enough that management might actually have turned the goddamn speaker down had the idea been broached.