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Best Vietnamese in NH

So, what's your vote? Any places some of us might not know about yet? Here's my vote (disclosure: I also posted some of this on Boston board topic about best bun vermicelli).

I'd love to know about any Vietnamese places in NH. The other Vietnamese place in Manchester closed, I don't know Nashua very well, and have no idea if there are good places in any other towns like Hanover, Portsmouth etc. I've eaten a lot of Vietnamese in Boston area and in Calif and Texas (there a large pockets of Vietnamese immigrants in both those latter places), which are pretty authentic and yummy.

And yet, surprisingly, the best bun (cold rice vermicelli bowl)and pho (hot beef noodle soup) I've ever had is at a little place in Manchester NH called Golden Bowl. If you are ever there, go no matter what! It's exit 4 off route 293 and you drive on Queen City Ave, toward Elm Street, but it's on the right before Elm.

Two sisters run it, and EVERYTHING is homemade. Although you might not know it, many restaurants cheat and use powdered pho seasoning with bouillon and herbs to enhance, even if they do make a base broth from scratch. The sisters make their beef, chicken, (seafood and veg broths too) completely from scratch the traditional way - simmer marrow bones and herbs, scorched onion, etc. You have absolutely no need to add the usual chili and condiments on the table to this pho since the broth is just so lovely. They have the usual choices of beef cuts, nice amount of onion, cilantro and white pepper sprinkled on top. I do add the basil, lime wedge, tiny chili and bean sprouts to the pho. She is picky about serving it completely hot too, so when you add bean sprouts it doesn't cool the broth down too much. Heaven!

They have a "chicken pho" that is great, and I usually hate chicken pho. Nice shreds of boneless white meat, some greens and cilantro and the crispy fried shallots as a garnish on top.

They also have nice seafood and veg noodle soups of various types, with squid, traditional fish cakes, egg etc. Tried many of those too, and never been less than happy. They have "Vietnamese beef stew" noodles soup too. And a couple spicy beef noodle soups, one hue (Vietnamese regional version) type and one satay type.
As specials, they often have roasted duck with rice or in noodle soup. Both are great. Other special I've enjoyed is the curry beef noodle soup.

And the bun has lovely vegetables - mint, slivered carrot and daikon and cuke, bean sprouts, shredded lettuce. Plus the grilled pork, or grilled pork and sugarcane shrimp (my fave!), or fried spring rolls on top. And a nice dusting of ground up peanut as garnish. The rice vermicelli are perfect, never too soggy or undercooked. I like their sweet fish sauce to put over the bowl of bun too, and always dump the whole portion in right away.

I had never tried it until recently because I thought it was one of those "crab rangoon" type appetizers on most menus, but their "peking ravioli" is out of this world! The pork filling is just like the best juicy pork filling I had in Taiwan from specialty street vendors. The cut of pork and the amount of fat is the key - they called it "black pork" filling in Taiwan, I'm guessing it's the dark meat cuts of pork. It is tender and not a hard lump ball of meat inside like some restaurant dumplings are. And the wrapper is clearly homemade dough that is thicker (than factory made dumpling wrappers) and nice texture. I was surprised and it's my new fave. I always went for the sugar cane shrimp paste appetizer, which is fabulous too. Usually with a group we have to get the "fresh" rolls/summer rolls (soft rice paper wrap rolls).

If you go, Samantha Diep is the sister who runs the floor, and she is great to ask questions of and will explain to you. She speaks four languages - Vietnamese, various Chinese dialects. They do have a few Chinese regional dishes on menu like Taiwanese stir-fry cabbage, pork chop over rice. There are always a lot of Asian patrons there - Vietnamese but also Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, because the food is so straightforward and good.

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  1. I'll have to agree, I've always had a good meal at Golden Bowl

      1. I like the Vietnam Noodle House on Main Street in Nashua. Their menu is in two sections, one vegetarian, the other with meat. The pho there is excellent, as is the bun and goi cuon (fresh roll appetizer).

        I haven't seen many other Vietnamese restaurants in NH; I think Nashua got lucky because of its proximity to Lowell and the Southeast Asian population that surrounds it.

        1. I agree, just found and love Golden Bowl. We love Vietnmese dining but since we live in the Lowell area, we're lucky and get some very nice choices to keep us happy.

          5 Replies
          1. re: lexpatti

            Both Golden Bowl and Vietnam Noodle House are authentic and good. I think you have to go south to Lowell for other Viet choices.

            1. re: whs

              Thanks! I'll have to try Vietnam Noodle House in Nashua whenever I'm down there. Lowell is pretty out of my way, but if any of you know some good Vietnamese or Cambodian places there, please list them here. I tried asking about Cambodian in another topic and only got one reply. Maybe there aren't a lot of Cambodian restaurants even though lots of Cambodians in Lowell, if everyone cooks at home? And not so much demand for Cambodian restaurants I'd guess from general American populace.

              I've eaten Cambodian at Apsara in Providence, RI and it was amazing. The flavors and ingredients are enough different from Chinese and Vietnamese that it's very intriguing to me.

              No chowhounds from Hanover or Portsmouth areas to report on Vietnamese? Hard to believe there are no Vietnamese restaurants in Portsmouth area at all.

              1. re: starvinginNH

                Unfortunately, I don't know of any Vietnamese restaurants in the Upper Valley/Hanover area. I keep thinking that I would make a mint if I opened up a pho house here! I've only lived here a year but if there's anyone that knows of and good ethnic cuisine in the Upper Valley let me know! The only one I know if is Yama which is fairly good Korean/Sushi.

                1. re: AUJester

                  The closest we had to anything approaching Vietnamese was Tai Shan, which burnt down.

                  I've gotten used to having to having to go to Burlington/Essex Junction or Manchester, NH for a Vietnamese fix.

                  If you want to open a pho house here, I'll invest.... :)

              2. re: whs

                I used to love the Vietnam Noodle house and ate there a lot ... until .... i noticed the waiter picking his nose .... and .....serving someone else's pho .... seems the service has no idea of hygene. Never went there again after that.

            2. Just off Rt. 3 in Drumhill is Pho 88 (very good), we also love in downtown Lowell on Market St. Southeast Asian. They have Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Thai, Bermese. I haven't been but many rave about Phien's Kitchen too (Lowell).

              9 Replies
              1. re: lexpatti

                Have you been to Southeast Asia since the change of ownership? They serve the same menu and there are some of the same wait staff, and apparently they are still waiting for their liquor license.

                The biggest difference that I've found so far is that the lunch buffet doesn't seem to get restocked as often as it did under the previous owners.

                1. re: lar3ry

                  I didn't know!!!! new owners!!! We just went recently but didn't see Joe, did he sell or is it still in the family?

                  1. re: lexpatti

                    Joe sold the place to spend more time on his frozen food business (he sells some of his Asian dishes to Trader Joe's and some area grocers). The buyer spent about a month in the restaurant before Joe left to learn the recipes and get a feel for the style. I met the new owner during that time. I think that the sale was completed a few months ago. They still advertise beer and wine on the window, but as of a couple of weeks ago, they still don't seem to have the license yet.

                    Some of the same wait staff are still working there, so the feel of the place hasn't really changed.

                    As for the lunch buffet, I don't go often, but a couple of weeks ago (on a Friday), I noticed that the spring rolls and gyozas were empty during one trip to the buffet, and were still unstocked during my next trip about 10-15 minutes later. This could have been a one-time failing, but I was trying to see if there were any noticeable differences between Southeast Asian "classic" and the new incarnation, and that stood out to me. The food tasted the same, but then again, the buffet food is stuff they make every day.

                    1. re: lar3ry

                      Wow, thanks for the update. Nice family - Joe & wife. Our buffet that day was great, we didn't notice any unstocked items. Good crowd that day too.

                      1. re: lexpatti

                        Im going to try it for the 1st time tomorrow, cant wait!

                2. re: lexpatti

                  Phien's Kitchen is Laotian. Really good, tiny place, mom's the cook, the daughter's usually serving. Very friendly.

                  I thought I posted this under the Phien's kitchen comment, but it moved!

                  1. re: lexpatti

                    So we tried the buffet today at Southeast Asian! Excellent. The fried gyoza were a big hit among my group. Some of the dishes really are SPICY! I dont think i have ever had food that was truely spicy on a buffet before. I really enjoyed the place. I didnt eat anything that i didnt like. Will have to go back as i didnt have the appetite to try every item on the buffet.

                    1. re: hargau

                      Kewl!! Wth a group, it's a great place to order from the menu and share all the dishes.

                      1. re: hargau

                        The spicy dishes at the buttet are clearly marked "blazing hot."

                        Actually, I remember a few years ago, somebody wrote cute little sayings instead of the "blazing hot" notes on the item descriptions, such as "Dude, where's my lips?"

                        For lunch, I would either do the buffet or order one of the nice soups (in addition to Pho, they have a very nice Cowe Soey (lke Pho, but it has flatter noodles and is red from the chilies they use).

                        For dinner, I recommend having everybody in your party order something different and then, as lexpatti recommends, share between everybody. The spicy dishes from the buffet are on the menu, and you can order them less spicy if you prefer.

                        If you are not familiar with Southeast Asian cuisine, they have mini-banquets for four that will nicely introduce you to the cuisine (currently Lao and Thai are the choices). They used to have Mongolian hot pot, but I don't believe it's on the menu anymore.

                    2. I'd have to agree with the general consensus about Golden Bowl, I especially like their "bun", and know someone who raves about the broken rice with chicken & a fried egg on top. But for Pho I personally still prefer Pho 88 near Drum Hill.

                      1. Vietnam Noodle House was reviewed this Thursday in the Nashua Telegraph. Got 4 stars.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: whs

                          Just tried Vietnam Noodle House tonight, unfortunately we were both dissappointed. We like our Pho88 and South East Asia much better. I got a shrimp/pork bun and hubby got a curry bun. Both were cold and weren't expecting that. both were lacking the bolder flavors that we usually get at our favorite places. The salad was great, as was the garden/spring rolls. Was a bit disappointed with service too, things came out too fast and hubby's bun came out a good 5 minutes before mine. His curry dish was very much lacking a curry flavor and the meat (think it was chicken) was very dried. Too bad, I was excited to try a new place. We'll be sticking to our favorites - must be what we're used to. The place was hopping - full at one point.

                          1. re: lexpatti

                            I have only had the pho at VNH and really like it there. They also have a good spicy broth as well. The service is usually really slow and the atmosphere blah. I love pho88 though and its much closer to me then VNH so rarely do we go to VNH.

                            1. re: hargau

                              I don't usually do the pho s, so I guess I can't use that as my gage. I love the buns at Pho88 but to be honest, not sure I've had buns at SEA. I love everythign at SEA but haven't ordered off the menu there lately, been shooting in for the buffet.

                              Tell us how you liked it. Be careful, some are very hot!!!!!

                              1. re: lexpatti

                                I have never had the Bun anywhere, have seen it. Looks as though they all have raw veggies? Raw beansprouts,etc?? I wouldnt like that if its the case. Are they supposed to be hot? I always thought they were cold.

                                1. re: hargau

                                  Yes, bun is served room temp or "cold" so the rice vermicelli will not be hot. The veggies and bean sprouts will be raw. But you usually have something hot and cooked put on top like grilled pork, shrimp paste patty, fresh hot fried spring roll, so it balances it somewhat.

                                  1. re: starvinginNH

                                    Yes, I remember mine at Pho 88 being room temp, but then with the hot items on top making it seem hotter then at Vietnam Noodle House. theirs was cold and shrimp/pork on top cold too.

                        2. Finally sat down and ate at Golden Bowl!!! Loved it. Thank you WHS for recommending the salt & pepper pork chops a while back - I could have eated several platters of this, wow. I loved their garden or spring rolls although I still like the sweet thin sauce (I'm not a peanut sauce fan). We also got a crispy appetiser special on teh wall but I can't remember - little packets, that were awesome. The only dish we didn't like was a curry dish with shrimp - not the curry we were expecting - it lacked the depth we are used to at Pho88. It was quite mild and lacked curry flavor altogether. Definately going back, we really enjoyed it. I really wanted to try the bun as that's usually my gage - next time. Loved that salt and pepper pork!!!

                          3 Replies
                            1. re: edinaeats

                              Thanks, I'll have to start trying the pho s too - I see many order it, I'm just not ever in the mood for soup and that's what I think of - even though it's so much more than soup.

                            2. re: lexpatti

                              Glad you enjoyed it! Aren't the pork chops great? Yeah, I agree on the peanut sauce with spring rolls, it's the one thing that isn't perfect there for me.
                              We just got back from eating at Golden Bowl tonight and had a new special that I have to rave about. Go and eat it this weekend everyone before it's gone! Samantha said this is first time they've made this for the restaurant. It's on the specials wall as "Grilled beef in grape leaf." It's a ground beef patty like a meatball wrapped in grape leaf and then grilled on a skewer. Tastes awesome. You can get it two ways:
                              1) over rice vermicelli like bun, or
                              2)as banh hoi which means over a soft pattie of interwoven superthin rice noodles, served with a plate of fresh veg toppings of lettuce, shredded carrots, cukes, and you can wrap everything up in the thin round rice paper wrappers and lettuce leaves yourself. You get the rice paper wrappers dry so you just dip them once or twice into the bowl of water you are given (don't soak it in there or it will get too soft to wrap with). It was so damn good, I have to say. You get a bowl of the thin sweet sauce to moisten and flavor the toppings too.

                            3. We went to Golden Bowl this afternoon for a late lunch of pho with rare beef, tripe and tendon. For me it's a toss-up: both GB and Vietnam Noodle House make a great bowl of pho. But for cleanliness and friendly service, Golden Bowl wins. Our waitress Jenny was wonderful, and we left with a smile and full belly. Why is it that you can get very good Viet food in New Hampshire, but the Thai food is so mediocre?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: whs

                                Vietnam Noodle House has MUCH MUCH MUCH better summer rolls, the ones at Golden bowl were small and tasteless.

                                for Pho it is a toss up. I would go to whatever is closest.

                              2. Just had a fabulous meal at Golden Bowl, after deciding NOT to order any of our usuals. Got the special which was vietnames crepe, really good. It's a riceflour (although it looks yellow it's not egg) crepe filled with shrimp and superthin slices of pork, cooked yellow mungbeans, wilted beansprouts, comes with lettuce and shredded carrot & daikon to wrap and thin sweet sauce to flavor. I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but the flavor combination is good. The small split cooked yellow mungbeans really added a creamy texture to the inside filling and I really loved that, it seems like such an unimportant ingredient since not much flavor but it's key.

                                Also ordered the small bowl (3.95 which is on the wall, large size for 2 is on menu) of tom yum soup, which is very spicy broth and has nice veggies (bamboo shoot, straw mushrooms, thin onion slices, etc) plus your choice of shrimp or chicken in it.

                                Special appetizer I tried was little balls of sticky rice paste wrapped around spiced pork pieces, steamed in a green leaf folded wrapper you have to remove before eating it.

                                I find the specials at Golden Bowl are almost always worth trying and usually something very authentic and tasty.

                                Samantha recently gave us free dessert she happened to have made in some spare time, it was made from yucca root boiled in palm sugar and water, then topped with a thickened coconut milk sauce. Very mild and barely sweet and we enjoyed it a lot. She told me the recipe and I'm going to try making it at home.