good vietnamese on 82nd ave. portland?
visiting from out of town and looking for good vietnamese for my husband's b-day...have heard there are many on 82nd ave? saw some good reviews of bun bo hue but wondering if you NW chowhounders have any other recs!
also, we don't have to go to the 82nd ave. area but have just heard there are many out there. we are open to other spots in the portland area....
many thanks in advance!
Concur with sambamaster on this...lots of mediocre to tolerable pho places in Portland. But nothing really beyond that.
Here's the menu for Jin Wah on 82nd:
This menu represents the extent of Vietnamese offerings you'll find around Portland. The non-pho places will most likely be coupled with Cantonese / Teochow cuisine, as you can tell from the menu.
Actually, Portland's Pho Hung used to be quite the standards bearer back in the late 80s / early 90s. They made pho and it was good pho with quality ingredients, and that's what they focused on. The chain went quite downhill around the same time that my friend saw the owner every night at the casino dropping thousands of dollars nightly on the poker table.
Portlanders love to think that the city is full of great Vietnamese places. But this just isn't so. Most restaurants here focus on pho, banh mi, and a few [fill in the blank] over rice dishes. There is no place (decent) that has a full blown menu of all the really wonderful treats Vietnamese cuisine has to offer. Yen Ha on Sandy has a large menu, but it is some of the very worst Vietnamese food I've had anywhere. I don't know if they dumbed down our choices because we are not Asian, but the stuff sampled here was absolutely awful. Now I've read good things about it. Pho Van on 82nd is a bit of an overblown "pho joint" with prices to match. I wasn't very impressed, though their menu does stretch out a little. Pho Oregon, also on 82nd might be ok, but I haven't been yet....too burnt out on other lousy places...but their menu does seem to have a bit more variety. Maybe it's worth checking out.
Now, the absolute best Viet food I've had in town is at Bun Bo Hue on SE 82nd, about a half mile south of Woodstock. The flavors there are more distinctive, better developed and more pronounced than almost any place I've been to in the USA. Downside: limited menu. However, if you order carefully, you can really score big time here. Their namesake soup is decent, and it's what most people order, or some variation. (No pho at all here.) They have a nice selection of bun--vermicelli-- dishes with all topped with a generous handful of vibrant herbs. For a change of pace, try the banh uot, a plate of rice noodles (more or less) topped with cha lua (Vietnamese sausage) herbs and fried shallots...ask for it with an additional topping of grilled pork, douse it all with the nuac cham (delicious "dressing" of fish sause, lime juice, lots of garlic, sugar and chiles), and you will have an amazing taste treat. Get an order of banh bot loc--shrimp and pork filled "dumplings" in a translucent tapioca starch wrapper and have a great meal. Maybe try the smaller Vietnamese sausage on the appetizer menu, it's similar to cha lua, but with more black pepper....yummy stuff. They also have, under the 'fried rice' category, a good, different version of chicken stir fried with lemongrass and hot chiles, "ga xao xa ot" which is decent.
Or try some of their other soups.
Nice place, simple, nothing fancy at all, but the owners are friendly and welcoming. It's frequented mostly by a Vietnamese clientele, I've only seen a couple of non-Asians there in my 10 or so visits.
Beyond this, I really wouldn't recommend, at least for the food, any other Vietnamese place in town. Oh, HA&VL Sandwiches gets raves, and it's good (the sandwiches, though, are not), but they are not open for dinner...and they have not, as one 'hound declared, "redefined soup"!!!! That declaration still cracks me up. But it's become a cult fave and gets lots of stroking. Again, good, interesting soups, but not earth-shattering.
Hope this helps.
this newer place gets lots of "cult" raves. I think people need to feel they are in the vanguard of what is new on the scene. The food at Ngoc Han Bun Bo Hue pales in comparison to the older place on 82nd. And it's icy sterility, ambience wise, is downright creepy. Give me some funk and character! The food is ok, but just. And a bit pricy for what you get. But this is just my opinion. I once went to the much-lauded Slanted Door in San Francisco and thought it was pretty lame. I would never go back. So take that into your stockpot and simmer it....