August 21, 2002



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cheap eats
by dan leone


TO MY DISMAY and to the even greater dismay of all the groundhogs, gophers, and corn-fed raccoons of Brookfield, Ohio, Rube Roy Perrotta has gone back home to take care of his garden and collect unemployment. Before I tell you where all else we ate and what we thought of the waitresspersonpeople/food, I want to publicly thank Rube Roy for helping me get back on my feet, chicken farmer-wise. In his honor, and in the interest of alliteration, I hereby name my new flock of Rhode Island Reds the Rube Roys. May they live in peace until they rest in pieces on my plate this time, with no due respect whatsoever to the foxes, bobcats, and chicken-fed raccoons of Sonoma County, who, in case they are reading this, had better stand duly warned: I've got guns. I've got long-handled axes, sledgehammers, anvils, meat slicers, sausage grinders, weed whackers, and a good arm. I've got bombs. You mess with my new little cutie pies, I'm going Saturday morning cartoonish on your animal asses. Understood?

Good. Then let's get down to business: I wanted to go to Yummy Yummy because I've been hearing really really good things about it, twice. First my brother told me, then his grillfriend told me. Huge food and great food, they both agreed, and they both told me exactly where it was, but I have one of those memories that needs to be reminded three times at least before it holds on to a thing. Thus did me and Rube Roy find ourselves at Yum Yum on Valencia and 17th, working over normal-size piles of pretty good fried Chinese food, thinking something like, Yeah, so?

"The waitresses are pretty," Rube Roy noted.

He'd ordered five-spice sesame scallops ($8.95), and I'd ordered five-flavor chicken ($6.95), only after our pretty waitressperson had assured me that the five flavors were not the same five things as the five spices. Or maybe she misunderstood the question, because both dishes were certainly fried and certainly orange and sticky and somewhat spicy, somewhat sweet. If the five spices are not exactly the same as the five flavors, there's some definite overlappage.

So ... we malordered. Our bad. Yum Yum's got over a hundred items to choose from, some of them undoubtedly better than so-so. I just remembered we also had Szechuan pickle-with-pork soup ($4.50), for example, and it was good and interesting, although I'm still not sure what about it was pickled. Anyway, there's no sense discussing the matter any further than this, because we were eating at the wrong restaurant. It hit me halfway through the meal: the Sunset! Vietnamese! The Mission isn't the Sunset, and Mandarin-style Chinese food isn't Vietnamese. We packed in what was left of our orange sticky stuff, and the next thing we knew, we were eating all over again at Yummy Yummy. The Yummy Yummy. Irving and 11th. Vietnamese.

Great logo: a clip-art cow on a big pho bowl with the words Yummy Yummy Yummy Yummy! Four times! Enough times for even me to remember! Gigantic crab-cutout wall hangings! A shrimp shrine! A basket full of chickens and peeps!

Over a hundred things on the menu, and Rube Roy managed to find the plate with the longest name and therefore the most stuff: com suon bi trung cha gio tom nuong ($6.75), or shrimp, egg roll, shredded pork, charbroiled pork chops, and egg over rice. All of which was just great, but especially, of course, the pork chops.

And out of the same 100-plus choices, I managed to find one of the best and most interesting things I ever ate: bo tai chanh ($6.95), or raw beef salad, which was a big plate full of thin-sliced beef, raw and smothered in mint leaves, green onion, and peanuts, with toasted garlic, fresh lemon wedges for squeezing, and a bowl of fish sauce for dipping. The minted meat was so flavorful and fun to eat that the lemon wedges went unsqueezed and the fish sauce was put to better use sprucing up the shrimp "cold rolls" ($4.50), which needed help on account of too much noodlage in the middle.

My brother swears by the barbecued pork chop pho, and his grillfriend swears by the chicken salad. I'll swear by the whole damn restaurant, even without the spectacular food, on account of my favorite and one of the most unfortunate – in fact, the most unfortunate – misspellings of vermicelli I've ever seen on a menu: vermincelli. Nine times spelled that way, so it's not just a typo. Either that's how they think the word is spelled, or Yummy Yummy makes noodles out of rats and gophers and weasels. And if that's the case, then more power to them, according to me and Rube Roy, vermins being both our biggest enemies these days.

Yum Yum House. 581 Valencia (at 17th St.), S.F. (415) 861-8698. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Takeout available. American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa. Beer and wine. Wheelchair accessible. Yummy Yummy. 1015 Irving (at 11th Ave.), S.F. (415) 566-4722. Wed.-Mon., 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Takeout available. MasterCard, Visa. Beer and wine. Wheelchair accessible.

Dan Leone is the author of Eat This, San Francisco (Sasquatch Books), a collection of Cheap Eats restaurant reviews, and The Meaning of Lunch (Mammoth Books).