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Another lousy Vietnamese meal

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Had a distressingly lousy lunch here today - just the latest in a series of acceptable to poor Vietnamese meals I've had in New York. I had been craving deep fried spring rolls and lemon grass chicken for weeks, so that's what I ordered. The spring rolls were mediocre - six rather dry and tasteless pieces (two rolls each cut into three) with the usual lettuce and basil accompaniments. The lemon grass chicken was so bad I didn't eat it. It was over-salty and tasted of soy sauce; more like a chicken with black bean sauce than a Vietnamese dish. I've eaten at many Lower Manhattan Vietnamese restaurants and none of them have been on par with the Minneapolis Vietnamese restaurants I grew up with and still go back to a couple of times a year. I've found wonderful Thai, Korean, and Szechuan food here, but no Vietnamese. Can anyone tell me where I should be going?

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  1. You never named the restaurant where you had this disappointing meal.

    I like Bao Noodles. I've always found the food to be well-prepared and very tasty. My favorites are the spring rolls (always crisp and never greasy), the green papaya salad, and the spicy beef stew. I've had chicken, but I can't remember if it was with lemongrass or lime. Whichever, it was good. Service is fine, and the ambiance is pleasant. N.B. Cash only.

    Link: http://www.baonoodles.com

    4 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Did you try that place that used to be called Vietnam on Doyers Street? You go downstairs...I also like Pho Grand, used to LOVE Nam Phuong but it closed. I'm not crazy picky but I do agree tha L'Annam sucks. Like Saigon Grill, and heard recently that Monsoon was good. Generally I think that Chinatown is the way to go.

      1. re: mmm

        yes, i like Doyers Vietnam Restaurant too

      2. re: RGR

        Pho Bang on Mott is consitently good- the spring rolls are great, the pho is excellent, and the grilled pork on vermicelli is also solid. I have been going here for 20 years and am always satisfied.

        1. re: jer

          I like Pho Bang, too. Sadly, vietnamese is not a strength of this city.

      3. Try TigerLand down in the East Village. They are moreso a thai/viet but very interesting dishes there. not sure if they are open for lunch yet though. give it a try....see for yourself....

        1. There are no really good Vietnamese restaurants in Manhattan. There just isn't enough of a community to support the real thing. Maybe Sunset Park but I haven't visited yet. Try the outerborough boards.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Homer J

            That is so not true. Pho Tu Do and Nha Trang and Cong Ly are all pretty good.

            1. re: devil

              What part isn't true? That there aren't any really good Viet restaurants, you name 3 'pretty good' ones or that there isn't a large Viet community in NYC?

              I agree that that Cong Ly is pretty good.

              1. re: Homer J

                BAO is pretty tasty, worth a try.

                i just went to a banh mi place in chinatown today, i forget the name, but it's on mulberry above bayard, mid-block/east side. i had never tried it before, the meatball sandwich is good so far. so is the "khoai mi dau nuong," a sweet yucca pancake dessert treat.

                  1. re: Polecat

                    yes, pretty sure that was it. i got the standard and the meatball. they were not quite as good as my go-to banh mi so no 1 on broome, but i enjoyed them. the yucca pancake was an excellent treat.

              2. re: devil

                I've only tried the pho at Nha Trang but found it to be lacking.

            2. Have you tried Nha Trang? This is where a Vietnamese friend took me when I asked her if there was any good Vietnamese in Manhattan.

              I also recommend Bao Noodles.

              Link: http://newyork.citysearch.com/profile...

              1. The best Vietnamese joints in NYC are in Bklyn, particularly Pho Hoi on Ave U (betw. Ocean Ave and E.19th St). Pho-fanatic that I am, I've tried most of the Vietnamese restaurants in NYC, and this place is easily the best of the bunch. They also have a sister restaurant in another part of Bklyn on 86th Street, which I believe someone else below recommended. The 86th St one was written up in the NY Times a couple of yrs ago.

                If you insist on Manhattan, I'd go with Pho Tu Do on Bowery (off of Grand St...look for the Statue of Liberty on the awning). They're more than reliable. There used to be others in Chinatown that were good (like Nha Trang and New Pasteur), but most have gone noticeably downhill.

                Hope this helps. Happy Chowing.

                7 Replies
                1. re: MattyMatt

                  We have always liked Pho Tu Do on Bowery too. The pho and various grilled meat/noodle specialties are excellent and we have had other good things over the years (but never lemongrass chicken).

                  Im assuming the OP was eating Vietnamese uptown and not in any of the chinatowns. big mistake. Not that every Chinatown Vietnamese is great by any means but the chance of getting better food is so much higher.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    I agree, the Chinatown ones are not out of this world but at least serviceably authentic and tasty, whereas the uptown ones are a lousy excuse for Vietnamese. I am so tired of the Saigon Grill hype in particular. Ironically I had much better Vietnamese when I was stuck in otherwise culinarily barren Richmond, Virginia than in NYC.

                    1. re: J

                      Years ago, I had quite a memorable Vietnamese meal in the VA suburbs just outside DC. One standout was the whole crabs with chili and garlic.

                      1. re: Chorus Girl

                        Actually, Northern VA is pretty good for Viet food. I was just there, I should have eaten some :(

                  2. re: MattyMatt

                    i agree about pho hoai being excellent. its sister restaurant, pho tay ho (in the vicinity of bensonhurst), is also very good, though i haven't been there in a while.

                    apparently, they also have a third location, called nha trang palace, on 8th ave near 60th street in sunset park. i'm wondering if anyone here has been there and can report on the food?

                    1. re: surly

                      i should clarify that, as far as i know, this nha trang palace in sunset park, brooklyn has absolutely no relation to the nha trangs in manhattan's chinatown (which is a good thing, i would assume).

                      anyhow, i'm wondering again what people think about this place, considering the good food at its siblings, pho hoai and pho tay ho.

                      1. re: surly

                        A bit late but what the hell. Nha Trang Palace.

                        I've been back 3 times since - the pho is excellent.

                    2. My apologies for not naming the restaurant. It was Doyers Vietnam, which in the past has at least been decent. I've eaten at Nha Trang - again okay, but nothing special. I'll hit the outer boroughs and see if I can do better. Thanks for all the suggestions.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Ira

                        wait a sec, you went to two places, havent hit the other boroughs yet, yet wrote off nyc in your op?

                        geez, thats a bit...quick.

                        1. re: mrnyc

                          I've been to many Vietnamese restaurants in Manhattan, from Tribeca and Chinatown to the Upper West Side. I just mentioned two in the post. It's true I haven't eaten Vietnamese in the other boroughs (always seem to get sidetracked by Thai, Sri Lankan, Mexican, Korean, and others), and I look forward to giving it a try.

                          1. re: Ira

                            well then for a fresh start have you tried BAO on ave c in the east village? its pretty good. there is also a new place called TIGERVILLE or TIGERLAND i have not been to, but it would be more easy on you to try that nabe. skip the west village, except for ASEAN, which is a lovely pan-se asian place.

                            you prob have at least 50 more viet places to try before you write off the whole city tho - lol!

                      2. you're right--vietnamese cuisine is sadly lacking in nyc and its suburbs. there simply isn't a large community anywhere in the area, for reasons unknown to me.

                        anyhow, i think your best option for vietnamese in manhattan is cong ly, on hester st btwn bowery & chrystie st in chinatown, lower manhattan. very simple, cheap, tasty, and authentic. only caveat is that the place is a total dive and closes at 8pm.

                        unlike the majority of nyc vietnamese restaurants, the place is actually owned and operated by a vietnamese person and has a vietnamese chef.

                        there's been a lot of hype on the outer borough boards about little saigon, on 85-32 grand ave in elmhurst, queens. i have not been there myself but it sounds promising.

                        also, i would definitely check out the vietnamese places in southwestern brooklyn--that's where much of the community lives these days and where you'd expect to find the best food.

                        1. In my office, we often go to New Pasteur. I like it. In particular, I find #21 (bun w/ tofu & veg) to be surprisingly addictive (despite the fact that I normally don't order that kind of thing). They have good bbq pork as well.

                          1. Sorry to hear about your disappointment. I think I have been to the place you went and thought the food was ok. I agree with some of the other postings that Manhattan might be a little weak on Vietnamese food (I think Mexican and maybe Thai food too!) but there are a few descent places such as Pho Tu Do and Pho Bang that I have been to.

                            In addition to that, a Vietnamese ex-coworker told me to go to Taison and I have heard other Asian friends liking it. I have been there a few time and it does get kind of crowded at lunch time on weekends. I remember their rice plates (with grilled pork, meat, etc.) and Pho and fried spring rolls were pretty good. Here is the address:

                            89 Baxter St, New York 10013
                            Btwn Bayard & Walker St

                            1. Vietnamese food in NYC is not on-par with places in the US where there is a sizable first-generation population. That said, Pho Bang has passable cha gio (fried spring rolls), and even though it isn't Vietnamese, I love Cafe Asean for the Vietnamese-style summer rolls (they seem to have the dipping sauce right) and the bun bo (grilled beef over rice noodles, greens and herbs).

                              1. We love vietnamese food and although no one seems to like the places in NYC , we have found some thru out manhatten that are reasonable and very good.
                                Saigon Grill the new one on university place, great menu, good food, reasonable.
                                Vermicelli 2nd ave in the 80's, nice, cheap box lunches...grilled dishes with vermicelli and fresh mint and viet interesting flavors, also , in the theater district Saigon 48, very good food.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: lutece

                                  I think Saigon Grill and Vermicelli are what Ira is likely referring to as the lousy Vietnamese they have in this city relative to Minneapolis (and Richmond VA where they also have surprisingly awesome Vietnamese food). I think they're very mediocre. I've never found anything on par with Richmond, but find New Pasteur in Chinatown reasonably good and very cheap. Nha Trang used to be good but last time I went it seemed to have gone downhill. I haven't been to some of the other ones people have mentioned in Chinatown or in the boroughs. Bao 111 is good for more upscale fusion Vietnamese.

                                  1. re: lutece

                                    saigon grill on university is terrible and saigon 48 is also horrible...i wanted to like both (saigon grill is close to my apt and saigon 48 is close to my old old apt), but they arent even passable

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      Agreed re Saigon Grill -- just awful.

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        I don't think it's horrible. It's OK - nothing special, but I wouldn't purposely avoid it if I were hungry in the neighbourhood.

                                        At least, not based on the food. Their treatment of their employees, now that's another matter, if the stories are true...

                                  2. No one has mentioned my favorite.
                                    Nam Son, 245 Grand St 212-966-6507

                                    Cong Ly is very good too, I've gone there off and on for many years.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Brian S

                                      Brian have you been to Cong Ly or Nam Son recently? I am trying to find a Vietnamese in Chinatown where 10 of us can have a good dinner. We do not mind a dive and will be eating around 7pm...

                                      My Vietnamese has always been Nha Trang but I have read some less-than-satisfied reports here in the lat few days..

                                      Or should I just wait to eat Vietnamese on a night that we can convene in Bklyn?

                                      Many thanks, as always...

                                      1. re: erica

                                        Cong Ly is pretty tiny for a party of 10 - you might consider Pho Tu Do instead.

                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                          Jen I will take a look at Pho Tu Do and also at Nam Son...or maybe I will just give up on the Manhattan Vietnamese idea and go to Oriental Garden for this dinner..... I happened to drive past 86th Street in Brooklyn yesterday and was intrigued by the Vietnamese places I saw there...is that the main area in Bklyn???

                                          1. re: erica

                                            No, the main area is in Sunset Park's "Chinatown" which has a sizeable Vietnamese population.

                                    2. A few years back we used to eat at Chez Vong and La Colonial . While they might not be considered "authentic" very few Viet places that I eaten outside of Vietnam , Hong Kong , or Socal were authentic.

                                      1. Erica, sorry I'm late in replying. I haven't been back to Nam Son or Cong Ly this year. My guess is they're the same. Manhattan is so much stronger in Chinese than Vietnamese food, though. Have you tried Amazing 66? You replied to my original post about it over a year ago but hadn't gone yet, as I recall. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/340879

                                        I've never eaten there, but there are some good Vietnamese restaurants in Sunset Park, and some are mentioned in the replies to my post about the area
                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/438915 And Bob Martinez gives a link to another one as well.

                                        Hope you have a good meal wherever you go!

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Brian S

                                          Brian thanks..I have all but decided on Amazing 66...I will give up the Vietnamese idea until I have time to do some sampling on my own of those two places...

                                          Take care.....e

                                          1. re: Brian S

                                            Just got back from Nam Son. Almost full at 5 PM on a rainy Sunday. The food was as good as ever. I ordered canh chua ca, billed as hot and sour fish soup. I ordered the smallest size, and what came looked like a mini-bathtub with at least a half gallon of soup! The broth was very thin and perfumed.... it tasted like nice perfume smelled, which was weird but wonderful. In it floated tomatoes, pineapple, bean sprouts, and pieces of good-tasting salmon steak. I don't think I'll order it again unless I'm really dehydrated, but it was quite well made. The stuff at other tables looked really yummy too.

                                            1. re: Brian S

                                              That soup sounds good. Does it seem like something that will survive the 15-20 minutes it'll take me to get it back to the office? I usually just get the grilled pork with noodles, lettuce, cucumbers and mint for lunch. I'm bored with that and this sounds a lot better.

                                              1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                                It will survive the trip, but I'm not sure I recommend it, it was mostly liquid. If you were with a group of 4 or 5 people, it would be a welcome diversion, since each person would get a small bowl.

                                              2. re: Brian S

                                                I used to live on fish & shrimp canh chua from Saigon Grill on the UES before their never ending "renovation."

                                                Good stuff! I miss it.


                                            2. Ira,

                                              There a couple of decent Vietnamese restaurants in the city but I wouldn't rave about any single one of them. I tend to like the ones on Baxter Street, south of Canal.

                                              Nha Trang Restaurant
                                              87 Baxter St, New York, NY
                                              (212) 233-5948

                                              Or if you like Vietnamese sandwiches,

                                              Paris Sandwich Corp
                                              113 Mott St, New York, NY
                                              (212) 226-7221

                                              I'm in the same shoes as you...the journey to find good Vietnamese food in NYC. I grew up in MD/DC/VA and the Vietnamese food down there is excellent, not as good as Houston or OC though...Good Luck. I hope this helps.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: tn40412

                                                Paris is not good, go to either Saigon Bahn Mi or Bahn Mi So 1 if you're going to get bahn mi (fyi both are take out, nowhere to eat)

                                                1. re: Lau

                                                  I always liked Pho Viet Huang on Mulberry St. Now there's another one diagonally across the street, a little closer to Canal....I can't remember the name...actually, I don't think I ever learned the name...but I like it even better.

                                                  1. re: EricMM

                                                    That's Xe Lua. The owner of the Nha Trangs has a connection with this place.

                                                    I like Pho Viet Huong, too. Not for its pho, necessarily - I've had better - but some other dishes are done well. There's a nice seafood casserole listed on the wall, a heap of squid, clams, mussels, shrimp in a slightly spicy, lemongrass-y broth.

                                                    Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong
                                                    73 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

                                                    Xe Lua
                                                    86 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

                                              2. I'm far from expert on Vietnamese cooking, but yesterday my wife and I went to BOI on E. 44th between 2nd and 3rd Aves. It turned up as a recommendation from another Chowhounder when I did a search for eateries in the E. 40's. We liked it! Fresh flavors, plenty of spices and herba, everything tasted very good to us...and every table was filled.

                                                Can't attest to authenticity....but for us, tastewise very good.

                                                1. Sorry - I have yet to eat NYC Vietnamese food as good as that of Twin Cities or Northern VA. The pho is just not as rich and flavorful, for some reason.

                                                  Plus no good Hmong or Cambodian food, but I went to Sripraphai last week and the green mango salad blew my mind and made my tongue dance with its sweet-sour-salty-tangy-fiery tango. Somehow the combination of chicken, quid, and shrimp with cashews and green mangoes is as memorable a dish as I've had in NYC.

                                                  Am going to brave the cold and visit Minneapolis for a mid-January jaunt. Will come back with food coma and memories.

                                                  1. I just found out that several months ago Robert Sietsema wrote in the Village Voice that the best pho in town is found at Pho Mac, located in a strip mall at 1407 Richmond Ave, Graniteville, SI (718) 982-9292

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Brian S

                                                      A hound thumbs-up from around a year ago ... http://www.chow.com/digest/1705

                                                      Pho Mac
                                                      1407 Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10314

                                                    2. I had a Vietnamese student (I taught ESL) who took me to a place on Baxter just below Canal saying it was the best in the city. Maybe someone can help me with the name. There are actually two Vietnamese places right next to each other. The one I'm thinking of is the one with the most people in it every time I go back. They're also the ones with crispy fried squid on the menu, which I absolutely love.

                                                      That being said, I've never had a bad experience at any of the Pho Bangs I've been to. Pho Tu Do (sp?) on I think Bowery just south of Grand is also pretty good. And if you're up for a 7 train trek to Flushing, there's a place on Kissena Boulevard just down from a Pho Bang that had my wife and me wondering why we'd never gone there before.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: douglas525

                                                        Probably Nha Trang, which is usually more crowded but it could be Pho Pasteur or Thaison too..I think they are all on Baxter street.

                                                        1. re: douglas525

                                                          "there's a place on Kissena Boulevard just down from a Pho Bang that had my wife and me wondering why we'd never gone there before"

                                                          I'm almost certain you're talking about Everbest Restaurant, which shares its' space with a Cantonese bakery/BBQ joint, diagonally across from the library.

                                                        2. nha trang (baxter) used to be my go-to but its been steady downhill for some reason; had better random meals at the centre st location but, I think I've found a nice bowl of pho at Pho Grand on Grand Street, a block or two east of Bowery. The #1 combo (large) is about $5.75 and is a huge bowl of broth, noodles, really generous and choice helpings of various beef goodies. usually I douse the hell out of the soup w/ the table condiments but this time, pretty much plain. quite good and probably next time, I'll add the extra $1 for the beef balls too for a monster of a noodle soup; bowl, no lie, probably 10" diameter, sloping of course but still; BIG.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: bigjeff

                                                            I just became aware of Omai on Ninth Avenue and 19th Street..have any of you tried this Vietnamese (related to Nam in Tribeca which I think is decent once you can get around the high prices) If you have been to Omai: Comments? Recommendations??

                                                            1. re: erica

                                                              Place info on Omai and Nam, with some Chowhound links ...

                                                              158 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                              110 Reade St, New York, NY 10013

                                                          2. After living in Houston and Dallas, where there are, indeed, many first and second generation immigrants from Vietnam, I find that Vietnamese food in NYC always seems to be a a bit "off". That said, I agree with the Chinatown recommendations. There are so many great ethnic restaurants in the city; one must just accept that Vietnamese here, at the moment, is just OK.

                                                            1. wow so much good info . doany of these good places have round table and are suiitable for dinner for 8-10 . If so can you tell recommended dishes for these places -much appreciated/ Brian or others, know anything? Specially Pho Tu do and Nam son also Doyers???