Vietnamese in Orlando
I know many (Bob, Bill etc.) have reported and recommended various Vietnamese establishments here in Orlando, but for the life of me I can't seem to pull up any recent lists. I do despise this new search engine but it may be just me and my resistance to change. So any help would be gratefully appreciated!
I'm not sure why you had a problem with the Chowhound search engine. I entered --orlando, vietnamese -- and got 56 hits. Same entry plus the word restaurant on Goggle brought up dozens of additional entries.
The largest Asian population in Central Florida is Vietnamese, with many of the best restaurants and grocery stores located in an 8-10 block area centered at the intersection of (N-S) Mills Ave. (Highway 17-92) and (E-W) Colonial Drive (S.R. 50). There is another, smaller concentration of Vietnamese people living in the Pine Hills area west of Orlando, however much of what is there is more down market.
Among the best known names of restaurants in the area referred to as the ViMi District -- combining Vietnam and Mills -- are Viet Garden, my favorite, Little Saigon, just renovated, Pho 88, for Vietnamese soup, Vietnam Town, a big room that does a lot of local Vietnamese family events and has a full bar, Lac Viet Bistro, a bit more upscale, and Chan's for dim sum.
My personal favorite is Viet Garden. They also offer a selection of Thai dishes, I think their summer rolls -- one of my benchmarks -- are the best around. Same for their Vietnamese coffee. But the entire menu is well done.
Rice Paper, out near Universal and away from downtown (7637 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, 32819, (407) 352-4700) is even more elegant, kind of touisty, but still very good food -- among the best in town.
If you want bahn mi, I suggest Ba Le up on Mills. It is actually a franchise, described as a combination deli and bakery, and they serve freshly bread and pastries, made daily in a Sanford bakery. Very nice assortment of subs as well, absolutely fresh veggies and a good selection of fillings.
Lollicup, a tiny storefront in a green house-looking building at Mills and Colonial, serves awesome bubble teas. Even better, in Winter Park at the Tatame Sake & Tea Lounge, 223 W. Fairbanks Ave.,(407) 628-2408, sleepattatame.com/, you can get bubble tea, a selection of sakes and food as well.
Here's a link: to a more detailed list of these places from Orlando Weekly:
Finally, the daily just reviewed a new place in the ViMi called Ming's Bistro that specializes in dim sum. I have not tried it yet, but Scott is usually right on about this kind of restaurant and I'd suggest giving them a shot.
Hope that helps,
You can never go wrong with Bob's advice, and I've become a huge fan of Vietnamese food since moving to Orlando and following his recommendations. My favorites (of the ones he has mentioned and I have tried) are Little Saigon and Lac Viet. I also love the bahn mi sandwiches at Ba Le, and as for bubble teas, I had a delicious one recently at Little Saigon, on a night Lollicup was already closed and I absolutely, positively had to get one someplace.
re: Bob Mervine
I happened to read Bob message right just before I need a place to invide my fiancee parent to dinner. I picked Lac Viet Bistro (2021 E. Colonial). The restaurant is the "Best looking" Vietnamese restaurant I have ever been. The food and the service were exelence. We came in in the day, Lac Viet won the Best Vietnamese restaurant in Orando by readers of Orlando Sentinel, and by critic Scott Joseph too. They deserve the title - my future in-law enjoyed the food, the charming decoration and the service there very much.
Oh here the link in Orlando about Lac Viet :
We tried Rice Paper on Bob's recommendation, it was good food but terrible service. Took about 15 minutes from Lake Buena Vista where we were staying, found it easily next to Kmart. It was a Tuesday night and at 7:30pm there were only two tables left when we arrived. Our caucasian waiter was less than helpful with my questions about Pho and the other clear soups listed on the menu. He never brought our drinks, but our appetizer arrived, then our entrees from a friendly but non english speaking Viet. man. We asked a busser(hispanic) for our drinks, he brought them, cleared our table and brought the check when we asked for it. We tipped him well and tipped the invisible server little.
The lemon grass shrimp was tasty but the portion was quite small. The clear white meat chicken soup was delicious and plentiful, the rice noodles were perfectly cooked. The spring rolls (uncooked) contained only iceburg lettuce, shrimp and white noodles. I remember these to have more ingredients? The dipping sauce was thick and full of flavor.
We still liked it compared to what is avail. in our area and would return for the food.
I have to say that Little Saigon has possibly the worst Vietnamese food I've ever eaten. About thrteen years ago, I was working on a television commercial in Orlando and was taken by a Hell's Angel from L.A. who was working on our crew to the most fabulous four-table family-run Vietnamese restaurant imaginable on Colonial Drive. The Hell's Angel had done a tour of duty in Vietnam, had an adopted Vietnamese son, and really knew his food. I also spent a lot of time in Vietnam and adore the cuisine. So, when I went back to Orlando three weeks ago to take our daughter to Disney World, I had mouth-watering memories of a meal eaten there years back.
Sometimes, you should just let memories rest in peace and not try to duplicate a moment of magic. Well, I raved to my wife about the Vietnamese restaurants of Orlando and dragged her miles from our hotel, promising her an outstanding eating adventure. Sad to say, the restaurants along Colonial Drive were tired excuses for eating emporiums. The whole strip had changed, and gone were the intimate little Vietnamese family restaurants I remembered. Instead, the restaurants we found had succumbed to tourism and smelled of inauthenticity. So we ate at Little Saigon, taking the recommendation of several people who had sung its praises on Chow Hound.com.
What a mistake! The food was poorly prepared and a sad excuse for the savory, fragrant cuisine that is true Vietnamese cooking. We live in New York City and the Vietnamese food here is at least fairly true to what one finds in Vietnam, although nothing can compare with the real thing in the real place. But the food at Little Saigon in Orlando was in plain English, disgusting!
I would foreworn readers not to waste their time or money looking for great Vietnamese food in Orlando. It may have existed there years ago, but today's Vietnamese restaurants there are a fake. You'd better invest your efforts hunting up a good southern barbecue place, of which there are many.
it's not disgusting. maybe to the guy who did his tours in vietnam and knows what authentic vietnamese food tastes like. but i LOVE the vietnamese places along colonial/mills. what do i, or the majority of people in orlando, know about what food really tastes like in vietnam??
just because it's not what they serve in NY or vietnam, doesn't mean it's disgusting. i like it.
As noted elsewhere, I am a Viet Garden guy not a Little Saigon guy. My sweetie and I had dinner at Viet Garden tonight. Summer rolls, as usual, were superior. I had the pork and shrimp clear noodle soup with a cold beer and she had the shrimp with lemongrass. Both were simple, tasty and elegant. I had a Vietnamese coffee.
Other than trying to stiff me with the second beer that never arrived trick, service was excellent. It probably isn't as good as Vietnam, but we aren't in Vietnam, nor do I want to be. It's quite serviceable.
That said, this isn't the first complaint I've heard about Little Saigon since their makeover. Rudykins for example -- unless my mind is failing -- had a terrible meal.
You should've gone to Viet Garden, which has been consistently good over the years. My condolences, however, as I also had a miserable meal right up the street from Viet Garden. However, I wouldn't judge the whole neighborhood on the basis of one meal at one restaurant. Seems a little unfair.
We went to Little Saigon based on a recent recommendation in the New York Times and I must agree with your review; the food was not good. It was probably the worst Vietnamese food we've ever had.
Lac Viet Bistro, on the other hand, was outstanding. Really terrific.
Little Saigon, by the way, was pretty much all white folks. Lac Viet was almost all Vietnamese folks.
Viet Garden last night was a disappointment. Shrimp with lemongrass and chilies featured fishy-tasting shrimp (and not many of them!), and worse, no discernible lemongrass or chili flavor, just a thick brown sauce the likes of which I have never seen at a Vietnamese restaurant before. The bun (rice noodles) with grilled shrimp was better, although these shrimp were grilled to death. The waiters were fast and friendly, the place was clean and pretty enough, but all things considered, we'll try another place in Little Saigon next time.