Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lunch #86: Vietnam House

Vietnam House The Vietnamese were late to the Seattle immigration party and so ended up with assorted strip-malls for Little Saigon. I suspect that in many ways there are advantages to being in a 30-year-old strip mall, as opposed to a 100 year old Chinatown building. But from an ambiance point of view there is a limit to what can be done to recover from the reality that your storefront is in a parking lot. Tamarind Tree has done just about as much as possible to overcome this but it still looks like lipstick on a pig. Immediately next-door to the Tamarind Tree is a small restaurant named Vietnam House. There is very little in the external appearance of this place that might draw you in if you happened to find your way to the back side of this particular strip-mall, especially if you noticed the Tamarind Tree. We, on the other hand, are bound by our mission to eat everywhere. So, today we showed up with a crew of six MSG150 lunchers to brave the unknown.

Vietnam House, Seattle
Address: 1038 S Jackson St (A), Seattle, WA, 98104
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Average rating: 3.3 chopsticks
Lunch date: 1/22/2010 @ 12:09:00
Time taken to be seated: 2 minutes
Time to take order: 0 minutes
Time for food to arrive: 3 minutes
Total lengh of meal: 48 minutes
Chopstix quality: Nice Plastic
Do they use MSG?: Yes. A little.
Where is the owner/chef from?: Saigon
Number of tables: 10
Number of occupied tables: 10 (100%)
Number of business lunch tables: 1 (10%)
Number of "local" tables: 9 (90%)
Healthcode Score: 17
Links: Yelp!, Urbanspoon
Vietnam House

Luncher: Emmett

#8 - Pho Dac Viet - Special Beef Noodle SoupLunch: #8 - Pho Dac Viet - Special Beef Noodle Soup - $6.25
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Emmett's Review

Perfectly average. Seriously, there is absolutely nothing that is unique, extraordinary, or special about Vietnam House. The food was decent enough. Decor is sparse. Service was fine. If I'm invited to lunch here, I'll gladly join in. But don't make a special trip here.

And since this is a blog, I feel compelled to write something. I love Vietnamese food, I love New Orleans cuisine. I've been reading and cooking out of my favorite Christmas present: John Besh's "My New Orleans", where he describes a sizeable Vietnamese migration to the New Orleans area since the early 1970s. He even incorporates some Asian elements into his recipes. I want to see a restaurant combine these two great cuisines. If you know of a place that does this, hit me up in the comments.

I hear Crawfish King is run by some Vietnamese. Need to check it out.

Luncher: Adam

#13 - Pho Tai Bo Vien - Round Steak and Meatball (Small)Lunch: #13 - Pho Tai Bo Vien - Round Steak and Meatball (Small) - $5.95
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Adam's Review

So, six large white men walk into Vietnam House... and it's like a record scratched. It really felt like the entire restaurant turned their heads to look at us. But that was totally fine, just a little weird.

They moved a group of 2 people away from the 6-person table, so we could use it, which was very nice of the customers we displaced. Every table in this restaurant seemed to be in a good place: Easy to get out of, easy to get service. I hate it when a restaurant is laid-out all weird and gets awkward when someone wants to do something other than sit.

Anyways, the Pho I got was pretty good. Nothing spectacular about it. The broth had a solid flavor, and had its own legs to stand on. The noodles were good. The meat balls were good. And the steak was good. It was all good.

I'm probably not going to make a specific trip back to Vietnam House, but I won't hesitate when someone else suggests it.

Luncher: Geary

Banh XeoLunch: Banh Xeo - $6.95
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Geary's Review

To my surprise Vietnam House was packed. We were the only group who didn't appear to be of Vietnamese origin. The interior is cheerfully decorated with purple plastic flowers, mirrors, ceiling fan and couple paintings of Vietnam. We had to wait a few minutes for a seat while the friendly staff rearranged tables and other customers to make room for us. The menu is extensive and filled with the Vietnamese favorites, many of which I now recognize. Having recently enjoyed the Banh Xeo at the Tamarind Tree I thought I’d give it a go here as well.

Banh Xeo is a large savory yellow pan-fried crepe filled with shrimp, pork, onions, and bean sprouts. It’s served with a pile of lettuce leaves, basil, mint, other greens, and a bowl of sweet and tangy fish sauce (nuoc cham). To eat, cut off a bite off crepe and wrap it in a handful of greens and dunk it in the nuoc cham. It’s delicious. My dish showed up last but was worth the wait. I’m always amazed at the pile of greens and herbs that show up with this dish. These alone would set you back a Hamilton or two at the typical suburban grocery store. My only complaint was that the crepe was a bit too oily.

There are better and worse Vietnamese restaurants than Vietnam House but to me average Vietnamese is better than 80% of other lunch offerings in the neighborhood.

Luncher: Scott

Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice VermicelliLunch: Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice Vermicelli - $7.25
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Scott's Review

Vietnam House was an interesting experience for me. The parking lot in front is small and overused. It's shared by several local establishments, so don't expect to easily drive and park there for lunch. It was also a little weird to see that it was sandwiched between what looked to be a fancier place to eat and a grocery store with stinky fruit larger than my head (which is saying something). From the outside, my guard probably would have been up if it weren't for my previous adventures in the land of the MSG150 and PBR150.

Once inside, it was pretty standard to look at. Lots of tables, all of them full. They quickly shuffled some other people around to fit our 6-person group at a table together, so that was nice. The menu had something like 96 items in it, well organized. Not feeling adventurous, I went for buzzwords I typically like, such as "chicken", "crispy", "spicy" and "vermicelli."

The most disappointing thing about my order was that right after I ordered it the old guy sitting next to me (Al) ordered the same thing. 95 other options, buddy. 95!

The food was everything the menu said it would be and I quite enjoyed it. Vietnam House is not a place that I would actively recruit people to go eat at, because I have similar options much closer. In short, I got a crispy spicy chicken noodle thing that didn't disappoint, paid a price that wasn't unreasonable, and issued it 4 out of 5 chopsticks because it's better than all-you-can-eat tacos at the Industry Lounge.

Luncher: Al

Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice VermicelliLunch: Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice Vermicelli - $7.25
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Al's Review

Food was good, ambience fair, but price a little high

Luncher: Jared

Lunch: "the basic pho" - $6.25
Rating: 3 Chopsticks

Vietnam House Photos

Vietnam House
Vietnam House

It's a Restaurant
It's a Restaurant

Inside their house
Inside their house

Vietnam House Menu
Vietnam House Menu

Vietnam House Menu (sample page)
Vietnam House Menu (sample page)

MSG150 Behind the Scenes
MSG150 Behind the Scenes

MSG150 Behind the Scenes
MSG150 Behind the Scenes

Fresh Rolls
Fresh Rolls

Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice Vermicelli
Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice Vermicelli

Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice Vermicelli
Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Lemongrass with Onion and Rice Vermicelli

#13 - Pho Tai Bo Vien - Round Steak and Meatball (Small)
#13 - Pho Tai Bo Vien - Round Steak and Meatball (Small)

#8 - Pho Dac Viet - Special Veef Noodle Soup
#8 - Pho Dac Viet - Special Veef Noodle Soup

"the basic pho"


Banh Xeo
Banh Xeo

Eating Banh Xeo
Eating Banh Xeo

Eating Banh Xeo II
Eating Banh Xeo II

Admiring the "fruit" at the market next door
Admiring the

5 comments:

Danny said...

As always I enjoy your reviews a lot. I wish you would publish a booklet with all of your reviews to date.

Anonymous said...

yes, i second that idea! loved your posts, and use them alot as i work in psquare. seems like you've moved on to georgetown now, perhaps you should post a farewell entry on this blog if you're really done with it now...looking forward to reading pbr150!

amanda said...

that fruit is called durian, and i am still confused as to why people still eat it.

Anonymous said...

No it is not durian it is jack fruit and it is very tasty.

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