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Vietnamese Dining at the Crossroads

Tran Noodle Restaurant serves fresh and healthy local fare.

Tran Noodle Restaurant, in the Crossroads Shopping Center, offers the only Vietnamese cuisine in the Pajaro Valley. Fortunately for us, it serves delicious, locally grown food.

While the menu is traditional Vietnamese—a mix of fresh vegetables, seafood and meat with both Chinese and French influences—this restaurant has a modern atmosphere, evident in the clean, open lines of the two large rooms that make up the interior of the restaurant. Several beautiful flower arrangements compliment the warm color scheme.

Now common to casual dining, there is a large-screen TV in each room. The night I was there, the channels were set to a news program, which was a nice change from the usual baseball or soccer game. As if to emphasize the modern ambience, the servers entered their orders on electronic tablets, similar to iPads.

We began our meal with fragrant jasmine tea. For appetizers, we ordered the pot stickers and spring rolls.

Pot stickers are steamed and lightly fried dumplings containing ground meat. Tran’s pot stickers were light, tender and easy to cut; they came with a very mild soy sauce. Unlike egg rolls, the spring rolls are not fried; these were wrapped in rice paper, filled with fresh carrots, greens, shrimp and bean sprouts, and served with a peanut sauce and chili sauce. Both appetizers were delicious starters.

I always regard the pho (noodle soup) as the standard of a Vietnamese restaurant. This is something I learned while living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are many noodle stands and small restaurants that feature nourishing pho as their primary meal.

I ordered the Tran Special Combination pho and asked for the “small” size bowl, after noticing that another customer’s “large” bowl was huge. It was the right choice. My “small” bowl was quite large and filled with steaming broth, thin rice noodles, green onions, cilantro, sliced beef and “meatballs,” which, to me, seemed closer in taste and texture to sausage.

The broth itself was richly flavored and aromatic with a subtle undertone of sweetness. It was accompanied by the traditional plate of raw bean sprouts, sliced jalapeños, fresh basil, cilantro, and lemon—a spicy and fresh garnish that contrasted nicely with the hot pho.

My companion ordered the Chef’s Special Mackerel. The fish was served as an “appetizer” dish, but the generously sized filet was big enough to be a small meal in itself. Baked in its own juices and lightly salted, it was tasty and tender, and needed no extra seasoning.

According to friend and manager, Terry Tran, chef Andy Tran has been operating Tran Noodle Restaurant for about three months, but he has had lengthy experience as a chef in the South Bay Area. Over a period of eight years, he honed his practical culinary skills at Maggiano’s Little Italy in San Jose, as well as at Ta Restaurant and Blue Ginger (the latter two Vietnamese) in Milpitas. Perhaps even more important, he learned how to cook and appreciate Vietnamese cuisine in his mother’s restaurant and at home with family.

Tran cooks with local produce and hires locally—with a staff of seven—with the intent of helping to support the Pajaro Valley economy and to serve fresh, healthy food.  The menu is well-designed to emphasize fresh vegetables and meat with no MSG. There are a number of vegetarian entrees, as well as desserts, smoothies, wine and beer. Choose Tran Noodle Restaurant for fresh, healthy meals that are delightfully tasty.

Tran Noodle Restaurant is at 1983 Main St. Call 831-763-7696 for information.

Patricia March 02, 2011 at 01:24 AM
This sounds like a great place to enjoy delicious, healthy and local produce. We will have to try this very soon. Wish I hadn't had dinner already :-( Welcome to Watsonville!
Jennifer Squires March 02, 2011 at 01:44 AM
I agree! I can't wait to eat there.
Cathy P. March 11, 2011 at 09:43 PM
Tran's has the best Pho I've ever had. The sauteed beefs cubes is my favorite dish as are the fresh spring rolls. You need to get over there, say hi to Andy for me.
Jean Vengua March 12, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Hmm, I'll try the sauteed beef cubes next time I go over there..

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