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Apr 24, 2008 05:39 PM

Southeast Asian, Lowell Ma. - Yummm, Still awesome.

We love this place and with new owners - still awesome. Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma dining. We started with a combo appitizer with my favorite garden rolls Goi Cuon (favorite sweet sauce, not peanut sauce), spring rolls, crab rangoon and chicken wings. We did a really nice house pad thai, then phat king chicken (loaded with wonderful ginger sauce): Phat King Gai -Chicken and ginger are the base ingredients, to them we add onions and mushrooms. and a beef dish that was great: Lap Nuer - Lean ground beef, mint, lemon grass, special sauce. (Very Hot).

They still have the lunch buffet that is great during the week and Sat.'s.

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  1. I'm glad you managed to give the place a try with the new owners!

    I've noticed some of the entree dishes have changed (not necessarily for the better) since Joe left. The beef Loc Luk, for instance, seems to use a lesser quality cut of meat. The lunch buffet also seems to be restocked less frequently than it used to, which means if you get there after the major rush between 11:30 and 12:30, some of the food will be gone and there's a good chance it won't be refilled before you leave. Another thing that I notice is that due to the fact that the new place no longer has an alcohol license, you can't sip a Singha with your Nom Prik Oong or Phat Prik. I also miss the familiar waiters/waitresses (and, of course, Joe) who would recognize my family and me as soon as we stepped into the place.

    These are minor concerns, though. The original was very highly rated. It may take some time for the new owners to find the correct balance between food and service to bring it back to its former glory. Perhaps it will be a difficult task, but I'm willing to keep trying it every so often. (I mean, a "good" meal here is still better than a "great" meal in a lot of other places...!) However, my wife and I will continue to investigate new restaurants in the Lowell National Park area, which is something we stopped doing once we latched onto Southeast Asian back in the early 1990s.

    17 Replies
    1. re: lar3ry

      We miss the staff too, they recognized us too. And I did miss my beer last night.

      We also love Pho88 (have you done that)? I've been wantning to try Red Rose too, we also like the one on Merrimack, right behind SouthEast Asian. Soo many great asian in Lowell but like you my fav is still SEA. There is a nice one in Dracut - lakeview ave (we went when it was new so haven't been back in a while - it was great then. It's just across from the plaza with Enterprise Bank.

      1. re: lexpatti

        The Lowell area is, without a doubt, a great area for Southeast Asian food!

        I've done Pho88, and the food is pretty good there. I've mostly had the Pho, but ordered the Bo Loc Luc there once and it was decent.

        Red Rose has probably the best Bo Loc Luc in the area, but I stopped going there for personal reasons (nothing that would or should affect any readers of this board).

        My recent favorite is Pho Da Lat, in Lowell near the intersection of Plain St and Merrimack St off the Plain St exit on the Lowell Connector. It is one of the few places in the area with my all-time favorite Vietnamese soup: Bun Bo Hue. I go to that place for lunch every week for my daily fix of that, and will continue to do so until that place no longer exists. If you haven't tried that soup, you really haven't had the best of the cuisine!

        Finally, there's Dynamite on Lowell Rd in Hudson, NH. It's Korean cuisine, but has Thai and a good sampling of Japanese food (including one of the best sushi chefs in the area). Their hot and sour soup is nothing short of remarkable, and I just love their hot stone bowl offerings.

        1. re: lar3ry

          Pho Da Lat is on Middlesex St. not Merrimack. The one off the connector and plain st. is another great one that we used to go to when it was another name - Thanh Thanh. It's on Chelmsford St.
          Yes, agreed on Dynamite - loved the sushi but only went once - kind of pain, out of the way, to go there.

          I agree - Lowell is definatly the area for awesome asian food. I don't think I could get tired of it, myself.

          1. re: lexpatti

            Thanh Thanh is now Pho Da Lat.

            Try Tepthida further down on Chelmsford St., almost to Westford St. Their Loc Lac beats Red Rose.


            I also pop into Yummy and Heng Heng on Middlesex (or is it Branch?) for quick lunches.

            There's a great new place on Merrimack near the Lowell Sun building called Etsogo. Very good sushi and real Malaysian dishes, too!

            1. re: Dinsdale45

              Yes, I've heard great things about Etsogo too and another new one on Merrimack (same block as Middlesex college) - I think it's called Blue Taleh (yes found it)


              1. re: Dinsdale45

                hi Dinsdale,
                Does etsogo have Hunan Chicken, or do the have a menu on line?

                1. re: openonymous

                  I don't know about Hunan Chicken, but they have Beef Rendang. There's no online menu yet.

              2. re: lexpatti

                Don't forget Phien's Kitchen (homestyle Lao cuisine). We haven't been a while but it was great.

                Has anyone been there lately?

                1. re: poundcake

                  I picked up a load of sausages for a Super Bowl party. Man, I love those things.

                  BTW, does anyone else wonder why they have no chicken dishes?

                  1. re: poundcake

                    I have been wanting to Phien's Kitchen for a while now - I have to put it on my GO NOW list!! I have heard wonderful things about it.

                2. re: lar3ry

                  I got the Hue soup at pho 88 once, not for me.. Pigs feet, Blood pudding, other stuff i really didnt care for.. Left it basically uneaten and wished i had stuck with the pho.

                  1. re: hargau

                    First, there definitely is a Pho Da Lat at 475 Chelmsford Street, off Plain Street--a short drive from the Lowell Connector. I stand corrected when I said it was on Merrimack.

                    As for Bun Bo Hue, I know that Southeast Asian soups do require a taste for them.

                    Pho is a basic dish, and can have organ meat (tripe) as well as beef and other meats. It's a simple combination of broth, flat noodles, and meat. (By "simple" I don't mean to imply that it is a simple heat-and-eat soup. It takes a good amount of time to get the broth seasoned just right!)

                    Bun Bo Hue is much different. It has a much bolder taste, with a seafood-based broth (is that shrimp paste I'm tasting?), and a bright red color that hints at the amount of chillis used to give it a kick. Yes, you'll usually find pig's knuckles in it, as well as thinly sliced beef, oxtail, congealed pig's blood (what you mention as blood pudding), and even pork shoulder (AKA "spam!"). The noodles in the soup are rounder than the flat noodles of Pho, not quite as thick as lo mein.

                    I agree that Bun Bo Hue is an acquired taste, but most Chowhounds will give the benefit of the doubt when trying a new dish, especially one as steeped in history as this dish (Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the dish). I simply managed to acquire the taste for it the first time I dipped my chop sticks and spoon into my first bowl of this soup.

                    In recent years, I've heard tales that Pho88 (Chelmsford) and the Saigon Kitchen (old name) and Vietnam Noodle House (more recent name) on Main St. in Nashua had this soup, but I never found it at either place.

                    A year or so ago, I went for lunch to Thanh Thanh, and found that the place had a new name. I went in, and discovered that they had bun bo hue. I ordered it, and it was delicious, evoking memories of when I first ordered that dish in the mid-1980s at a Boston restaurant in the Combat Zone (Chinatown).

                    I've been going there at least once a week ever since for lunch.

                    The spiciness of bun bo hue will clear out your sinuses, and I have found a few times when I had laryngitis with a sore throat, a single serving of this soup would allow me to speak in a normal voice for about a half hour!

                    Yes. I'm a bun bo hue devotee. I've written about this dish in more detail in my blog last year.

                    1. re: lar3ry

                      Well pho 88 has it for sure. Its on the house specials list. It is bright red and has the round noodles. Has the congealed blood, pigs feet, and the spam like pate stuff in it as well as other things. Wasnt for me and they didnt mention all those ingredients on the menu... Go to the very bottom of the menu here, #9A

                      1. re: hargau

                        Yes Pho 88 definitely has Hue City Soup (Bun Bo Hue). I love it! If you are put off by the blood sausage or the knuckle, they will modify, personally I like the original version very much, so I never do have them hold back on anything.

                        1. re: qianning

                          Hubby loved Pho 88 more then SEA so we do go often, I love their Bun. I love what they did to the place - service is great too. We had a business close by and ate there very often before they expanded. Even better now.

                          1. re: lexpatti

                            I like either SEA or Pho 88, depending on whether I am more in the mood for dishes served with rice (SEA) or noodles (Pho 88). That said we go to SEA slightly less lately, and Pho 88 slighlty more. It really is nice what they have done with the expanded space at Pho88, and how well the kitchen has been able to keep up with the additional business.

                        2. re: hargau

                          OK. I see it.

                          Interestingly, neither Pho Da Lat nor Pho88 have Bun Bo Hue listed under soups, where I would expect to find it. The former has it in with the beef dishes and on the daily specials, and the latter has it as a "Chef's Special."

                          The first place I tried Bun Bo Hue didn't even have it in the menu at all. Instead, it was on a hand-written piece of paper posted on the wall with the Vietnamese lettering with absolutely no explanation as to what it was; apparently if you knew what it was, you'd order it. A friend of mine suggested I try it and explained how to pronounce it properly (more or less how it looks in English, it turns out).

                          I'll have to try it at Pho 88 sometime within the next week or so.

                          I really appreciate the pointer, especially since you don't like the soup!

              3. We love this place. We go to the Sat lunch buffet just about every week. yumm! We have noticed like Lar3ry says, you got to get there in the 11-12 time frame to be sure its stocked well

                1. My friends and their two year old went to Southeast Asian Saturday night for dinner. Here are a few facts I noticed during our visit. The menus are very dirty and greasy. There was a revolving cast of friends and family that would come in to hang out with the employees, some would order takout and some just seemed to be hanging. The wait staff was young and capable. I didn't recognize many of the dishes by name but I recognized many by description. ...wide selection of very tasty food. I ordered a bowl of coconut chicken soup with a strong herb taste. It was very good. I enjoyed the scallions but after a taste, left the leaves in the bowl. I also ordered a Massaman curry veggie dish that did not come with rice. I asked for rice after the fact and they didn't charge me for it. That was a nice surprise. My friends ordered soups, noodle, fried rice, and fish dishes. Sorry, I can't remember exactly which ones. I tried the fried rice and while it wasn't extremely hot and smoky like I'm used to, it had a nice dark flavor. The two year old enjoyed the white rice and noodles. I will definitely go back if I have the opportunity. Afterward, we drove around the Lowell business district. I was really impressed with the architecture and the variety of local businesses. I hadn't ever been to Lowell except for a stop at Bob's furniture so I was happy to see how cool the center is.

                  1. We tried to go to Southeast Asian last night but they close at 8pm! After some driving around, we rejected Pho Mi Mi and Pho Da Lat and ended up at Pho 88. Though good, their pho was not as flavorful as the pho at Golden Bowl, our go-to place in Manchester NH. The broth did not seem to have the depth of flavor--we missed the star anise and the cilantro. Loved the spring rolls though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: whs

                      Is Golden Bowl selling or closing? It was lit up tonight (going through) but in a past several weeks looked closed down. ?? I just recently went to Pho Da Lat on Merrimack St. - loved it!!! I think it's their first location - liked it better then the one on Chelmsford St.

                    2. Where did Joe go?

                      We haven't been to Southeast Asian in many many years, but while we lived in the area, we were there regularly three times a week or so; we spent some memorable New Year's Eve holidays celebrating there with Joe and the family but once we moved, we lost touch.

                      Anyone know what happened?