I'm surprised to find so little posted about this restaurant, Hoai Houng on 5485 Victoria (is that neighborhood called "Snowden"?). It may be that there are so many terrific neighborhood Vietnamese restaurants that this just doesn't rank. I have little experience with the spread out there so forgive me if this is simply a pedestrian offering. But there were so many diners at this restaurant tonight that I think at least some population likes the place!
I was very impressed with how they handled the crowd. Food comes out amazingly quickly from this small restaurant. Still there were always at least three parties waiting the whole time we were in attendance, from 6pm on Saturday until whenever - with two kids we like to do in-and-out restaurant meals, and they certainly complied, even given the line. They seemed to interpret my need for, say, napkins, even across a packed room. I think just 3 or so people were serving in two rooms, and they did an amazing job.
We loved the food, though again, are inexperienced. We had pork croquettes which come with a stack of really thin, sticky rice paper wrappers in a stack of plastic plates separating them. You scoop the vermicelli and salad offerings (including *lots* of delicious basil leaves) as well as the meat and a sauce into these -- I think. I'm sure we did it wrong and could have used a lesson, but it tasted great even if our delivery was unpracticed. The meat balls were a very dense, though not thick consistency; very moist and tasty. Also enjoyed was a "pancake", an eggy crepe filled with shrimp and sprouts. I thought is was very flavorful and interesting, not at all sweet, but a sweet-spicy sauce was served with it. Oddly my kids didn't like it. They are ordinarily egg lovers and this was very eggy - I can't really imagine what was not to like, but I think there was some disconnect with its appearance and their expectation? Dunno -- it was very interestingly flavored to me. And it had several very large shrimps inside. And last was a fun "birds nest" fried-noodle dish with lots of different vegetables (the diversity of vegetable offerings is highly appreciated!) stir-fried inside. It had a very sweet sauce all over it that was fun to eat but truthfully, rather too glutinous and too sweet. I was quite happy with it all the same, but I imagine from a gourmand standpoint it might not make the grade. Nevertheless, from an incredibly crowded-restaurant standpoint, I was impressed.
Either this last birds nest dish took a long time to prepare or they were deliberately timing the arrival of our shared dishes so as not to crowd the table. I think the latter, truthfully. If so, this was impressively respectful of round-robin dining. One reason I suspect the latter is that when the first set of rolls came out I divided them in two for the four of us; the next set that came out were already cut. And so it went with my feeling very attended to even in the far corner of an incredibly jammed-packed place. As soon as we finished one dish the next one was swept in front of us, always.
Also enjoyed were springrolls and a fried appetizer-roll dish whose name I forget; the first one on the menu. That was made with pork and was very meaty (it tasted, truthfully, like egg rolls I remember at Chinese restaurants from my youth -- that famous one in Boston whose name I forget that became so over-the-top famous ... Joyce Chen?).
Interesting also were the diners. There was a largish party that included a robed Tibetan I think, or maybe just Buddhist? monk? He was wearing very traditional-looking saffron robes. Our weather has been mild but.... Also in this party was a woman wearing a gorgeous sparkling outfit of some sort; I couldn't quite catch it but I think it was rather special. There were several other largish parties perhaps a little less distinguished but also made of aging well-dressed Asians, I am guessing Vietnamese? I was surprised by the relative average age in the restaurant. Perhaps the average wasn't quite as high as all that as there were several parties with children as well, but there was greyer hair all around there than I am used to seeing; many parties with diners in their 60's and 70's.
This was a very positive dining experience for our family at a restaurant that is also, evidently, popular with many other Montrealers.
But ... what's with the TV, here as in so many restaurants?? I can understand the establishment is not always so jammed-packed as on a Saturday evening and at other times the workers and diners alike, perhaps, might enjoy some entertainment? But I think those things are extremely distracting and annoying amidst a crowded restaurant scene. The ubiquitous presence of TVs in Mtl really surprises me, frankly. I would prefer they were turned off and I don't think frankly that anyone was looking at the thing.
I know that restaurant well. I used to go there a few times a week in the mid 90's into about 2000. I was introduced to it by Vietnamese friends who also all enjoyed going there. However about that time period, we all noticed that the quality of the food and the portion size was going down quite noticeably. Many of our friends stopped frequenting it at thime. Good to hear that it seems to have recovered its mojo.
They have a second location in Brossard, opened up sometime last year. I do not know the exact address, but it's in the strip mall next to Al-Challal where all the car dealership is located. Same menu, in a much nicer ambiance. They took over a restaurant that also use to serve vietnamese food.
I just discovered for first time the second location a couple of days ago. Nice to know they have a location in my neighbourhood. Bun bo Hue soup is one of the new additions to their menu, & claim they don't use MSG in all their dishes(is it the same as with the original Hoai Huong location?).
whoopsey. Still, I did search the archives and found rather little -- it was just my misspelling in the title I think, not in the search.... thanks for pointing it out. I'm thinking I should edit my title just for future search purposes, but it will make your post forever confusing! ;)