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Oct 22, 2007 12:40 PM

[HOU] Mai's Vietnamese ?'s

This is my DD's favorite restaurant, and it's her birthday tomorrow, so we are going there. She has eaten there many time. I went once, but whatever i ordered wasn't what I expected. I do NOT know much about Vietnamese cuisine, so please educate me a bit. I am not crazy about fish, so I am looking for something that doesn't have a lot of fish sauce in it, unless you can tell me that it won't taste fishy. I know Pho is soup, but what is Bun? I think that is what I had last time, but There were so many noodles. I know there are all kind of other dishes with odd names, but what are they? What would you recommend? I love spicy food, but my stomach doesn't, so I have to keep it on the milder side.


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  1. I'm a newbie here -- who's a DD?

    I do know Mai's though I haven't been recently. We usually wind up at Van Loc's. Some favorites --

    Beverages: cafe sue da (sp?) iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk -- if you want to stay up till 4am. Soda chanh muoi is soda water with salty preserved lemon and sugar, its kind of musty but hits the spot.

    Bun is the thin room temperature rice vermicelli. Its good with charcoal broiled pork or chicken (served warm on top), or even with cut up fried egg rolls. Cucumber, sprouts, peanuts, carrots are in too. The fish sauce comes in a bowl, recognizable by the shredded carrot, so you can avoid it. Another good dish: lettuce leaves you fold around flat squares of bun and charcoal grilled meat. (I have no more Vietnamese names in me.) None of these come spicy, you add sriracha to taste.

    Spring rolls are good but I think they usually have shrimp.

    Hot n sour soup is totally not what you would expect, its actually sweet, hot n sour. It usually has catfish or shrimp, okra, tomato, pineapple and an herb whose name I can't remember. I'm thinking it won't fit your bill.

    Fish that's not fishy? This dish is a little more on the mysterious side, but I had this fish hot pot once, and it was deep, rich, a little caramelized, maybe there were porky bits in it? Very tasty.

    Send your review afterwards...

    1 Reply
    1. re: shahkbhaji

      DD=Dear Daughter.

      Thanks for the info.

    2. Just saw this thread your DD might be interested in:

      Sorry, it is fish clay pot not hot pot that was memorable.

      1. if you like beef, get the bo luc lac (garlic beef). i think it is one of their most popular dishes. the cubed filet is stir-fried medium to medium rare. lots of whole garlic cloves, cooked until they are soft and mellow, onions, peppers, tomatoes. a good flavorful dish that everyone will enjoy.

        the fried soft shelled crab in butter sauce (Cua Lot Chien Bo) is amazing. i've tried both SSC dishes on the menu, the other one sounds better on paper, this one is tastier.

        both these dishes are large and should be served family style. the pho, com (rice) and bun (vermicelli) dishes are individual entrees. if you have never ordered family-style, i highly recommend dining here this way. sharing is more fun, you get variety, and it may be cheaper.

        how many people are going? i recommend starting with fried vietnamese egg rolls (cha gio) or spring rolls (goi cuon) or getting both if you have a more than 3-4 people.

        if the hot and sour soup that shahbhaji recommends sounds like something you would enjoy, order that for the table. it comes in fish, shrimp or chicken. it is not spicy to me, but it is a little sweet and tart from the pineapples. i don't usually like this kind of thing (not a fan of tom yum) but mai's is balanced and full of flavor and textures. it is topped with fried onions which is delish!

        an appetizer, the hot and sour soup, the bo luc lac, and soft shelled crab dish will easily feed 3-4 adults.

        3 Replies
        1. re: neverfull

          There will be 4 adults and 2 children. Come to find out my DD and her husband eat Pepper Steak and General Tso's chicken. Sounds like a cop out to me, but whatever.

          That bo luc lac really caught my eye. Sounds good, but I'm not sure anyone will share with me. I do want to try the spring rolls, love them!

          I have only had deviled crab (frozen with my mom Bleeh!) and crab cakes with my friend, and I'm not very fond of them - yet!

          I was looking at :
          Ga xoi mo xoi chien
          Rotisserie chicken served with two patties of fried sweet rice

          but that doesn't sound very vietnamese, does it?

          Thanks for the advice.

          1. re: danhole

            Ga xoi mo xoi chien is actually a common dish served family style at Vietnamese weddings. Cornish hens are used and the rice is sticky rice that has a little bit of coconut in it. I'm not sure why the description says "rotisserie chicken" because the chicken is fried. Personally it's not a dish I would order for myself, but it's nice to have once in a while when dining family style. If you have any other questions about Vietnamese food I'll try my best to help. :)

            1. re: al427


              Did you see my link to a post I put in the general chowhounding section? I didn't get the chicken dish. I got Bo Luc Lac and it was delicious. Check it out, the post, I mean. Oh, and I'll take you up on the offer to answer my questions! Thanks!

        2. To see the results of the evening go to this thread:

          Now, for you Houstonians, I have to say that after reading reviews on other boards, I was concerned about the quality and service that we might experience. Well, it was fabulous. They sat us a bit off to the side, which was perfect, treated us very well. The only complaint I had was that the timing was off. 2 people were served, then 2 more, then the final 2. But since we had so much food on the table it wasn't a big deal. Mai was cordial and everyone was helpful. The food quality was excellent, fresh and hot out of the kitchen.

          3 Replies
          1. re: danhole

            i'm glad you had a good experience. i think service is usually better during normal dinner hours on weekday nights, i tend to go late (1 - 2 am) after a night on the town.

            i'm glad you enjoyed the bo luc lac. reading your review is making me crave mai's right now. perhaps i will order some to-go for lunch.

            i think skipping the vietnamese hot and sour soup was a good call from the descriptions of your family's likes and dislikes.

            deviled crab and crabcakes are nothing like fried soft shelled crab. both of the former have breadcrumbs and additional ingredients and spices incorporated into the crabmeat. these dishes are only as good as the stuffing. fried soft shell crabs are battered, fried and eaten whole. they are caught and cooked right after they molt their hard shells. i would hate for you to never try soft shells based on poor experiences with other mediocre crab dishes. i highly recommend mai's version that is deep fried and served in a soy butter sauce, but have also had good american-style versions at pappadeaux, pappas seafood house, pesce, and mark's. at pappadeaux and pappas they are served simply with cocktail and tartar sauce. you may be able to get them in a po-boy as well. at pesce and mark's (when available) they are served with a butter or cream based sauce. try them the next time you get a chance, however if you don't like crab at all, then just ignore this suggestion all together!

            btw, the best crabcakes in town are an appetizer at vic and anthony's steakhouse. they are served in a chive beurre blanc sauce. if you don't like them here, you won't like them anywhere.

            1. re: neverfull

              I read a review about fresh crab, by Robb Walsh, awhile back and now they are on my list of things to re-explore. I did taste some fried crab legs with a friend out at Floyds Seafood (on 1960?) and it was very good. I need to go to Mai's with a friend that likes crab, so that if I don't like it, it won't go to waste! Your description makes it sound so good! Thanks.

            2. re: danhole

              I have NEVER had a problem with the food, service, or cleanliness at Mai's, and I'm sure I've read all of the same negative reviews you have read. I love the barbecue pork or chicken over vermicelli with lots of sprouts and cucumber, and I always enjoy their spring rolls. I'm glad you and your party had a good time.