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.
Zahav is once again hosting a very Jewish Christmas. On Monday, December 23rd, it will be Vietnamese food and a movie. And this year the food will serve as a menu preview of Tyler Akin’s upcoming restaurant, Stock, a Vietnamese restaurant that Akin (a sous chef at Zahav) is opening at 308 E. Girard Avenue in Fishtown.
The movies are a surprise, but will most likely be R-rated. Price is $55 per person and excludes beverages, tax and gratuity.
Read more »
On Monday, the New York Times dedicated hundreds of words to Atlantic City’s Vietnamese restaurants in an article entitled “Where the Pho Is a Sure Thing”. Now, it may seem strange that a paper like the Times would head to our little gambling town for Vietnamese noodle soup. I mean, surely there are zillions of great Vietnamese spots in New York. There must be, right? Read more »
I’m not exactly sure how you pronounce the name of Mi Dac Ky, the newest restaurant addition to the bustling Washington Avenue food district. But I do know that I want to try their “Chinese/Vietnamese Hoagie”: Peking duck, housemade duck liver pate, cucumber, carrots, jalapeños and cilantro on a French baguette. Read more »
The cultural flair of Vietnam and Mexico collide at South Philadelphia’s Le Viet.
Le Viet, known for its traditional Vietnamese food, is offering a Cinco de Mayo special Friday, May 3rd, featuring $3 Coronas, $5 margaritas and two Vietnamese tacos for just $7. The event runs 5 to 7 p.m.
Le Viet [Official Site]
Le Viet, on 11th Street, just off of Washington Avenue isn’t eligible to participate in Center City’s Restaurant Week so they’re offering a better special of their own. During Restaurant Week (January 20th through February 1st) the Vietnamese restaurant will be offering a special three-course dinner for just $16.95 per person.
Choose from exciting appetizers like a watercress salad with carrots, onion, peanuts and beef or a grilled chicken slider (pictured) on a steamed bun with carrot, cucumber, and scallion. Entrées include caramelized pork slices served with steaming rice or tofu stuffed with shrimp and cilantro. Among the three dessert options is Le Viet’s Vanilla ice cream with fried banana, topped with coconut cream, toasted coconut, and peanuts.
Le Viet Restaurant Week Alternative Menu (PDF)
The dreaded candy cane-striped sign adorns the door at Saigon Cuisine, the Vietnamese replacement to Nan at 40th and Chestnut. The cease operations placard is up because the BYOB needs a certificate of occupancy. Something it won’t get until a sprinkler system is put in place.
The Daily Pennsylvanian reports the restaurant will hopefully reopen by the end of the month.
New Vietnamese BYOB Temporarily Closes [Daily Pennsylvanian]
Photo via Daily Pennsylvanian
Brian Freedman reviews Vietnam House at the corner of 9th and Race Streets and finds the spot is doing Vietnamese classics well and at bargain prices.
Bun rieu was fantastic. It arrived at the table glowing with drops and swirls of tomato red pooling in the spaces between noodles and hunks of tofu. Generous icebergs of ground pork-shrimp balls peeked up through the surface, the red tide encircling each. A slurp of noodles revealed the subtle funky hum of shrimp sauce in the background. For $6.25, this is a layered, rewarding bowlful—easily enough for two, though you may want to keep it for yourself.
Vietnam House Is a Very Fine Addition to Chinatown [Philadelphia Weekly]
Adam Erace was excited to try Benny Lai’s Grill Fish Cafe in West Philadelphia but he found the whole experience to be just too tame.
The Lais have always been Western-friendly, but never as timidly as Grill Fish. Thrumming chords of lemongrass and garlic, a wicked chicken/sake broth (served with both sweet steamed clams and the mussels with chewy chow fun noodles) showed promise, but even that could have used ballsier doses of fish sauce, chili and lime. And while I loved the tender grilled lamb leg marinated in hoisin, honey, lemongrass and soy, I am still trying to figure out why it’s served with lemon aioli and oily grilled zucchini, squash, peppers and onions.
Pass the Fish [City Paper]
Grill Fish Cafe [Official Site]
View The World on Your Doorstep in a larger map
In the magazine’s January issue on food neighborhoods we also highlight neighborhoods in Philadelphia for the best ethnic foods. From Injera and Kitfo to Baklava, Tom Kha and Tempeh, here’s where to score Philadelphia’s best ethnic dishes.
Check out our accompanying Google Map where there is much more detail on each Indian restaurant, Vietnamese spot and ethnic grocery mentioned.
World at Your Doorstep [Google Maps]