This Thai and Vietnamese restaurant has been sitting in wait at the corner of Mission and Industrial in Hayward. It sees us every few days as we pass by and watches intently as we frequent the gyro place next door. It finally caught us; we gave the Red Chili a try.
The inside is very nice and totally isn’t what I expected seeing the outside (just like the gyro place). It’s spacious and nicely decorated and has a nice feel to it. And, surprisingly, it seems to draw a crowd, which is refreshing and reassuring at the same time.
The menu is a mix of Thai and Vietnamese just as the sign outside suggests. There are Thai curries, Thai soups, Vietnamese soups called pho, Vietnamese vermicelli dishes, and standard Thai noodle dishes (ex: Pad Thai), fried rice and a variety of combo dishes including BBQ meat and rice dishes. On many dishes you can choose the level of spiciness to suit your preferences.
During our visit, we ordered shrimp spring rolls as an appetizer, Pad Thai, the Yellow Curry lunch special, and BBQ Onion Beef Skewer over rice. The appetizer was a little bit of a disaster; we thought it was only shrimp and no other meat, but in fact there was a slab of pork in each one. This could be removed relatively easily for us half-veggos, but I think we were all envisioning the kind of spring rolls that are crispy and deep fried, not the fresh, cold ones. I’ve made this mistake before and clearly not learned. They were all right, but we weren’t exactly gobbling them up. This was more of a personal preference though, they were made well enough.
The Pad Thai was good (as it should be); sweet and yummy with bits of tofu and egg scattered throughout. The Yellow Curry lunch was quite good but is always hard to eat as it’s a million degrees upon arrival. I ended up dumping the cute little square bowl of food onto my plate to let everything cool off for a while. I ordered the tofu version which added a nice texture to the accompanying potatoes and onions. The BBQ Beef skewer looked pretty good and got decent reviews.
My only complaint about the main meals (BBQ Beef and Curry Lunch special) was the way the included soup and salad were served. I typically expect soup and salad to come before the meal and for them to come one at a time. Some deviation from this is ok, but the salad was a very tiny plop of greens sharing the plate with our meals and the soup was actually brought after the meal. Not way after, but still, I was already started on the main food and wasn’t really feeling soupish anymore. Plus the tomato based, somewhat spicy soup that they serve isn’t something I really like–is it vinegar they put in it? I’m not sure but I’m not a fan.
Ok, now, the service. This is really my only main complaint, but it’s a big one. They were clearly understaffed for how many customers were there, which may or may not be a habitual occurrence. It’s hard to judge that from one meal. But the waiters and bus-people who were present were not very friendly, were inattentive, and were generally not very good at their jobs as far as I experienced. When a good waitress walks down an aisle of tables, they are typically looking around to see if any of the customers are trying to catch their eye, seeing who’s ready to order, taking away finished plates, or checking drink levels. These folks were just walking around looking at the ceiling.
We were seated promptly, but the prompt-ness stopped there. We had to flag down a woman to order from, we waited a while for our food, and each interaction with the wait staff was wholly unimpressive. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but they made it very difficult here. Overall, I’d try this place again, but if the service wasn’t any better I’d say it’s not worth the frustration.