In Philly, Southeast Asian flavors are the gift that keeps on giving. In Point Breeze, South Philly and Chinatown, along Washington Avenue and even out in the ’burbs, there are enclaves whose composition and abstract representation of geopolitical borders are constantly shifting and changing. This means Thai and Laotian food on traditionally Vietnamese-heavy blocks, and awe-inspiring Malaysian food in Chinatown. It also means a deepening and broadening of available flavors, so if you’re looking to explore the subtle differences between Malaysian and Indonesian food, Vietnamese that goes beyond a bowl of pho, or Thai more complicated (and delicious) than a simple plate of pad Thai, there are many options.
On a recent visit to one of the many hole-in-the-wall pho joints on Washington Avenue, I saw a table of large white construction workers slurping up noodles. And while there might not be anything strange about that today, things weren’t always that way. Twenty-five years ago, when Benny Lai took over Vietnam on 11th Street from his family, no one in this town who didn’t grow up on home-cooked Asian food knew a pho from a bun. Lai opened the door, making the food more accessible while getting lots of us drunk on Flaming Volcanos and other tiki concoctions. These days, there are plenty of Vietnamese restaurants in town. But Lai’s Vietnam (and the mirror-image Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia) remains the place for Vietnamese dinner with out-of-towners, the in-laws, etc. Order the barbecue platter (Lai’s version of the pu pu platter), salt-and-pepper fried shrimp and some of those flaming drinks, and you’re good to go.
First appeared in the April, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Fabulously wealthy Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie got married over the weekend. And if you’re thinking, “Gee, that sure looks like the girl who seated me at Vietnam the last time I was there,” that’s because it was her. Read more »
Freshly back from an August voyage to his homeland of Vietnam, Benny Lai (owner of Chinatown’s Vietnam and West Philly’s Vietnam Café) is poised to open a third location. The new restaurant will be called Grill Fish Café and it will live in the original Vietnam Café location at 814 S. 47th Street, completing his trifecta. The opening date is set for January 14th.
While we were looking for a good idea for dinner tonight we came across this excellent idea from Vietnam Restaurant and Cafe.
the all appetizer meal. Good for lunch or dinner. Grilled meat balls, crispy crepe, shrimp and pork rolls and stuffed grape leaves.
Sounds like a good idea to us.
Philadelphia Weekly points out that sometimes you drink to remember, sometimes to forget and sometimes to just get royally F-d up. Here are six drinks that fit that last category.
- Vietnam Restaurant – Flaming Volcano
- Southwark – Southwark Cocktail
- Percy Street Barbecue – Sazeroot
- Oscar’s Tavern – Long Island Iced Tea
- Ranstead Room – American Trilogy
- Rum Bar – Colonel Taylor’s Revenge
Six Drinks That Will Knock You On Your Ass [Philadelphia Weekly]
How European is Stephen Starr’s Dandelion? The kitchen is running on the metric system. [The Insider]
Beginning in 2011 Chinatown’s Vietnam Restaurant and West Philadelphia’s Vietnam Cafe are going to be seven days a week operations.
Jet Wine Bar is already open seven days a week and that now includes lunch. $10 Express lunch gets you soup/chili and a salad/sandwich. [Jet Wine Bar]
Michael Klein’s go-to Northeast sushi spot, Makiman Sushi is the next in a long line of sushi spots making a go of it at 1326 Spruce Street. [The Insider]
Where does Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto like to take his kitchen staff out for beef-stuffed grape leaves? Well, it’s to the Vietnam Restaurant in Chinatown. That of course is the one on the east side of 11th street, not to be confused with Vietnam Palace on the west side.
Adam Erace finally makes it to Honey’s Sit ‘n’ Eat and gets the breakfast po’ boy. [blogalicious]
It’s the baked eggplant that makes the difference in Chickie’s veggie hoagie. [Living On The Vedge]
Mac & Cheese experiences the “best enchiladas I’ve ever had. Â¡Hola!” at Las Bugambilias. [Mac & Cheese]
Last week Phoodie.info got down with a tour through Chinatown. [Phoodie.info]
Jose Garces cooks octopus in Chicago. [MenuPages]
Highlights from today’s Inquirer’s food section:
For food news nerds, Rick Nichols’ description of his lunch at Vietnam with In Defense of Food author Michael Pollan, will be a thrill. Everything Rick Nichols writes is a thrill!
For cupcake news nerds, the description of Flying Monkey Patisserie’s signature banana-n-buttercream cupcake will be more of a thrill.
For cooking and environmentally-inclined nerds, this feature on eco-conscious cooking might be interesting. Or not.