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Jun 6, 2009 08:45 PM

Long Provincial or "Wrong" Provincial?

My husband and I ate at Long Provincial Vietnamese last night on our first visit to Seattle. We eat Vietnamese food in Houston frequently and love it for the crisp, fresh flavors. We were really quite disappointed in Long.

First, let me say the service in the restaurant was excellent and the owner is very friendly. The ambiance is nice as well (in the restaurant... a little more about the bar in moment). The food: not very good at all.

We ordered an okra satay appetizer. Tasted good, but very small portion. Basically 5-6 okra on sticks. Come on. 5-6 pieces of chicken or beef, yes that is an appetizer. 5-6 to okra? I will say the flavor and preparation were good, though.

My husband ordered a halibut with various mushrooms. It was basically a hot pot dish served with broth, but not billed as such. The halibut was fresh and nice enough, but the flavor was dull. The mushrooms, were fine, but cooked mushrooms (3-4 varieties) were just that, cooked mushrooms.

Now comes the really bad. I ordered a lemongrass chili beef. I was thinking it would be strips of grilled beef with a bright and spicy sauce. It was more like stewed beef, almost like carne guisada. It was prepared with lots of onion, but really the only taste was hot. And the chef drizzles the entire dish in chili oil as a finishing touch, so the dish looked like shredded stewed beef in an orange grease with lots of onion. It had a cilantro garnish that I ate and only that brightened up the flavor.

The only great part of the meal was my drink. A spicy watermelon martini. I loved it. So after our meal we adjourned to the bar so I could have another and see how it was made. The bartender was busy talking to his friends at the bar and made my drink at the other end near them (no big deal). When he brought it over I wanted to ask him how he infused the vodka and about the other ingrediants and preparation. He was polite, but clearly irritated that I was asking so many questions. I guess I was keeping him from his buds. The bar is pretty dumpy, too. Looks like college students idea of a martini bar.

Anyway, we were hugely disappointed in Long Provincial Vietnamese. I don't know if Tamarind Tree is better, or if we just ordered wrong, but I feel like the concept is a good one, but the execution is lacking. Either that, or I just don't like the way the owner's Vietnamese mother taught him to cook.

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  1. I have a basic Vietnamese cookbook that has both styles of beef. There's a 'beef with lemon grass and mushrooms' (That bo nau voi sa va nam), which is a stir fry with tender beef, and a 'spicy beef stew' (Thit bo ham gia va). The stew is likened to 'boeuf a la burguignonne'.

    Maybe the stew is more popular in Seattle's cool wet winters.

    1. Anyone have a good review?

      I was thinking of eating here ... or should I just stick with Tamarind tree?

      4 Replies
      1. re: boisenewbie

        I've had 2 sensational meals there. I can't distinguish the menu or the quality from Tamarind Tree. Long has a more upscale atmosphere, better drink list, and slightly higher prices.

        1. re: boisenewbie

          I had a great meal there last month. The appetizers and the entrees were very flavorful and well-executed. I am not a big fan of spicy food (love wasabi, hate chilies) which may skew my experience. Usually if food is spicy, I'm disappointed because I can only taste the heat and not the flavors, but that wasn't the case at Long. I had the halibut, which was finished with a beautiful crispy exterior (perhaps it is the same dish HoustonHound had?) and my husband had a beef dish. Both were very tasty, but I gave up halfway through because my mouth was so fiery -- couldn't keep it up. If you like spicy food, you'd love this place -- good heat, great taste. I wasn't drinking that night, and the bar was able to make drinks I was interested in without alcohol without hesitation. Give it a try!

          1. re: boisenewbie

            i have been to long several times (which begs the question of whether i like it...) and haven't managed to be disappointed yet - a huge drinks menu featuring fresh fruit like kumquat, pineapple and lychee, a large foods menu offering small plates, entree soups and spectacular salads, luscious desserts offered nowhere else and service that makes me feel like visiting royalty. my only complaint is that the chairs are just a bit low and rather deep; more like lounge chairs than dining chairs

            1. re: boisenewbie

              What BruceB said. Long Provincial is a little fancier and significantly less crowded but basically the same food as Tamarind Tree; a good thing in my book.