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May 19, 2007 09:48 AM

Review: Cyclo (PHX)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Cyclo is a popular Vietnamese restaurant in Chandler that offers a westernized version of the cuisine along with a pleasant, modern atmosphere. In case you’re curious about the name, a “cyclo” is a three-wheeled, Vietnamese version of a rickshaw.

We arrived early on a Friday, around 5pm, which was perfect timing, because a line began building outside soon after we arrived.

We started with an order of Spring Rolls ($4). They came with grilled pork, shrimp, and a peanut sauce. Everything was delightfully fresh. I think the BBQ Pork Spring Rolls at Saigon Pho were slightly better, but these were very good.

I ordered the Beef Capriccio ($6) without realizing what it really was. It sounded great: beef with Vietnamese coriander, pineapple, and sesame crisps. Unbeknownst to me, the beef is served raw. I guess there has to be a first time for everything, so I gave it a go. I imagined it would taste bad and I’d get deathly ill. Fortunately, I was wrong on both accounts. There wasn’t any pineapple on the dish (perhaps they ran out), but it did come with lime wedges. I squeezed the lime over the beef, mixed it up with all the garnishes and took a bite. It had a mild, fresh flavor, and was extremely tender. It’s not something I would order again, but it was a good one-time experience. According to our Vietnamese friend, Joe, who was with us, this was the one truly authentic Vietnamese dish on the menu.

The dish came with a side of sesame rice crisps. I wasn’t too crazy about the taste of them, although they offered a good complementary texture for the beef.

My wife decided on the Saigon Rice Vermicelli ($10), which is grilled marinated beef, pork, shrimp, and egg roll served over a bed of light and fluffy rice vermicelli. My wife loves meat, so this was the perfect dish for her. She loved the combination of flavors. The dish came with a small bowl of fish sauce, but Joe said it was really tamed down from the authentic version.

Cyclo definitely caters to the western palate. There weren’t any Vietnamese patrons when we went; whereas, at Saigon Pho, nearly everyone there was Vietnamese. Both of these Chandler restaurants offer excellent food. If you want cheap and authentic and you aren’t concerned with atmosphere, go to Saigon Pho. On the other hand, if you want appealing atmosphere and an Americanized version of Vietnamese cuisine, head on down to Cyclo…and get there early to beat the rush!

Interesting fact: Cyclo is the sister restaurant to Khai Hoan in Tempe (yet another quality Vietnamese restaurant that I plan to review at some point).

1919 W. Chandler Blvd.
Chandler, AZ 85224
hours: Tue-Sat 11-3 (lunch), Tue-Thu 5-9 and Fri-Sat 5-10 (dinner); closed Sunday and Monday
phone: (480) 963-4490

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  1. I think your differentiation between Cyclo and more authenthic Vietnamese restaurants is right on target. Cyclo is Westernized, but still produces food that is excellent on its own terms. Khai Hoan is a recent discovery for me, but I'm hooked on it.

    6 Replies
    1. re: silverbear

      As usual, I'm in agreement with SB. We haven't been to Cyclo in a while, but I remember the menu as also having what seemed like some Thai dishes as well. We loved what we had and Justina is a riot when she's wandering the dining room. It's definitely more Western, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a good place to ease someone into Vietnamese before taking them deeper at a more authentic restaurant.

      1. re: Firenza00

        You're right, they do have some Pad Thai on the menu; it's a bit of a fusion at Cyclo. I like your idea about taking first-timers to Cyclo before introducing them to full-on, authentic Vietnamese.

      2. re: silverbear

        This is our favorite neighborhood spot. Definitely not straight Vietnamese but delicious for what it is. Justina's Pad Thai is unlike any I've ever had in a Thai restaurant so the Thai dishes can't really be characterized as typical Thail I actually love her version and have come to prefer it to more authentic Thai versions as it doesn't seem to have nearly as much oil as many of those have.

        The green beans and the green papaya salad are among the not to be missed Cyclo dishes.

        I haven't been to her sister's place yet(Khai Hoan)...someday I'm going to deal with the light rail construction and try it though.

        1. re: ziggylu

          Khai Hoan is at 1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ. I haven't eaten there, yet, but, I can say the atmosphere is much different than Cyclo. The crowd is mostly Asian. At this stage of the construction, you are forced to approach from the West, or make a U-turn against the signage. Map it out, before you go, but, don't let the construction stand in the way of getting chow!

          1. re: johnseberg

            I hit Haji Baba one day for lunch...and it took much too long to get there from my office at 52nd St and University so I haven't ventured over that direction again. I also never venture down University at lunch because of this, maybe now that school's out it will be a bit easier to get around and negotiate the construction.

            We need to get up there one evening or Saturday to try it when I'm not pressed for time.

            1. re: ziggylu

              My office is right by yours, and I can get pretty quickly to Apache Blvd. restaurants via this route:


              It avoids most of the rail construction, as well as the unrelated construction along University Drive in Tempe.

      3. This is my favorite place in the area, with Pita Jungle coming in second. I just love those green beans! Some of the Chandler 'hounds should meet at Cyclo sometime. Anyone interested?

        2 Replies
        1. re: don giovanni

          It's amazing to me how everyone keeps raving about their green beans. I never thought green beans could be that exciting, but apparently they are at Cyclo. I'll have to give them a try.

          1. re: jasonaz

            They're super fresh, not overcooked, lightly spiced, very lightly acidic. Just perfect.