Here is another entry in my fitful series of reviews of restaurants south of the Twin Cities. Cam Ranh Bay is in Burnsville and whether there’s a good reason to go there depends on a number of factors. If you live in St. Paul or within reach of “Eat Street” in Minneapolis, the answer is “no”. There’s far better Vietnamese food to be found there. But if you live south of Burnsville there aren’t very many options. Pho Everest in Lakeville has serviceable pho and decent banh mi and not very much else (caveat: I have not been in more than a year). I’m not aware of any other Vietnamese places of note. And frankly, there aren’t very many restaurants of any genre of note in that general area. Which means that if you are a Costco member and the Burnsville Costco is your store of convenience—or if the closest movie theater to you is the Mueller multiplex in Lakeville or the Odyssey in the Burnsville Center—or if you just happen to be on the 35 and not able to wait till you get a little further north…and if a burger is not what you are in the mood for, then Cam Ranh Bay may be for you. Just keep your expectations in check.
It’s not that there’s no good food to be had here. One way to get at what I mean about expectations is to point out that while the placemats say “Vietnamese Cuisine”, the signs outside say “Oriental Restaurant”. They’ve been around for 20 years and a big chunk of their clientele continues to be people looking for generic “Asian” food. Thus the menu offers a range of egg foo youngs, lomeins, and things cooked in sweet and sour, orange or lemon sauce and a lot more in that vein. Indeed, the Vietnamese offerings only make up a small percentage of the menu. There are only two kinds of pho: one with meatballs and one with meat sans meatballs (don’t look for things like tendon here). Still the pho broth can be decent—in nine years of eating here it has never been better than decent and sometimes it’s been just about acceptable—and there are a few other things on the menu that can also be enjoyable enough. And so we find ourselves stopping in once every month or two on the way back from Costco (it’s right by it in the strip mall with MGM liquors).
Here in slideshow form is a list of the things we usually get. These pictures were taken at meals eaten over the past year and more.
Prices are reasonable enough and portions are generous. Service is friendly but can get a bit ragged when the restaurant begins to fill up. The space itself is large and bright (it got a makeover a couple of years ago). As I said before, you can do a lot worse in the Burnsville area than to get some egg/spring/summer rolls, a bowl of the pho and some of that rice pancake to share.