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Authentic Vietnamese food?

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I was quite disappointed in the Vietnamese food scene in Seattle (as well as Vancouver). I grew up in Dallas, where I thought the food was good but was supposed to pale in comparison to San Jose and Los Angeles...but Seattle? My VN friend from Seattle even recommended Green Leaf to me so I trusted that it was decent -- way too sweet and overkill with the fried onions! I ordered 5 dishes (2 noodles soups, 1 salad and 2 dishes that go with rice -- perhaps only one should have the fried onions). Saw the Vietnamese market area and some VN restaurants there but didn't get a chance to try -- anyone have better luck? Did I just go to the wrong places?

Been craving VN food since I moved overseas...and was really hoping to get my fix in Vancouver and Seattle...but to no avail.

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  1. Try the Vietnamese food blog “msg150” These guys review all of the Vietnamese places in the international district.

    1. I'm no authority since I've only eaten Seattle Vietnamese food but i like Tamarind Tree.

      Pho Viet Anh. I've only been to one time so far but I really like the Vermicelli bowl with Lemongrass Chicken.

      5 Seasons Grill is pretty good. They used to be very good but they were sold and it's not as good as it was before but they do have a really good Bun Bo Hue.

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      Tamarind Tree
      1036 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104

      5 Seasons Grill
      9724 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

      1 Reply
      1. re: seattleviking

        Second the Tamarind Tree.

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        Tamarind Tree
        1036 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104

      2. Up on the Little Saigon hill on Jackson, Binh Huong is pretty nice and is well-recommended by the Vietnamese community. A lot of Vietnamese seem to patronize Mi La Cay over on Rainier for noodles, but I thought it was only OK.

        Vancouver has a large selection of good Vietnamese along Kingsway on the way to Burnaby.

        Green Leaf and Tamarind Tree are not places to go for authentic Vietnamese. Both serve Americanized, prettied-up third-world cuisine. Being not Vietnamese, I eat there on occasion and have no problem with the food myself, but I have never seen more than one table of Vietnamese eating in these restaurants at any one time. I meet a lot of Vietnamese in my line of work and they generally give these two a thumbs down (and the large absence of natives in any "ethnic" restaurant is a sure sign of non-authenticity).

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        Tamarind Tree
        1036 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104

        Mi La Cay
        718 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

        1. I really like the Lemongrass on Jackson, East of 12th. It's in a mini mall that also houses Seven Stars Szechuan. Most of the customers are Vietnamese and they feature several specialties from central Vietnam. I have heard that the owner is from Hoi An or thereabouts.

          1 Reply
          1. re: forkit

            Strong seconds for Binh Huong and Lemongrass for very authentic cooking for a Vietnamese clientele.

          2. Being Vietnamese I find most VN restaurants around the country Westernized just as in Seattle. Too much added sugar and incorrect fresh herbs to accompany specific dishes.
            With that said, Viet Huong and Lemongrass are as close as you come to authentic VN food. Even though they also add too much sugar to some dipping sauces so you have to doctor them.
            I went to Tamarind Tree twice and found it totally westernized.
            Pho So1 in the same shopping center at 12th & Jackson was excellent when the mom was in the kitchen. It is not as good after the kids took over with additional menus items but is adequate for pho. Keeps me from having to make my own which required about 6 hours of cooking and skimming to get a clarity and depth to the broth.

            1. Reviving this post since I'm working in Seattle this week and love me some bun. Which of the restaurants below have the best noodle salad?

              10 Replies
              1. re: debbie421

                Bun thit nuong (noodle salad with grilled pork) is one of my favorite Vietnamese staples, and IMO is the measure of how good a Vietnamese restaurant is.

                My favorite bun thuit noung in Seattle is from Huong Binh in a small stripmall off Jackson street (a few doors down from Lemongrass). Their grilled pork is packed with flavor and perfectly cooked. They also have a lot of noodle soup specials that are somewhat harder to find, and are one of the only restaurants in Seattle that I know of that serves ban hoi.

                I've had the bun thuit noung from Tamarind tree over the years, and it went from pretty good in the beginning to pretty awful the last time I had it this past summer. The noodles were kind of hard and the pork was tough and flavorless.

                The bun thuit noung from Green Leaf is alright, probably just a notch above Pho Hung.

                I go to Lemongrass for their cooked dishes and not their noodles, and it's been years since I've been to Mi La Cay, so can't commoent on their bun.

                Would be interested in hearing about other places that serve good bun!

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                Huong Binh Restaurant
                1207 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98144

                Mi La Cay
                718 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

                1. re: clearskies0810

                  My favorite bun thit nuong in Seattle is at the 1st Ave S (across from Starbuck HQ) location of Pho Cyclo.

                  I will have to try Huong Binh. At Green Leaf I prefer the bun bo la lot to the bun thit nuong.

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                  Huong Binh Restaurant
                  1207 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98144

                  Pho Cyclo
                  2414 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134

                  1. re: terrier

                    There's a new Pho Cyclo awning on the Wells Fargo building at 2nd between Madison and Marion, but no sign of a new Pho Cyclo location. They aren't my favorite Vietnamese but I like them well enough, and they're certainly better than other spots in that part of downtown. Anyway, anyone know the story?

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                    Pho Cyclo Cafe
                    406 Broadway E, Seattle, WA 98102

                  2. re: clearskies0810

                    Sounds like Huong Binh is it! Am I safe there as a woman alone?

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                    Huong Binh Restaurant
                    1207 S Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98144

                    1. re: debbie421

                      Yes.

                      1. re: debbie421

                        What's an example of a restaurant unsafe for single women?

                        1. re: HungWeiLo

                          Pesos? Cowgirls Inc.?

                          1. re: seattleviking

                            Lol. Pesos indeed.

                            I assumed she meant the parking and walking part.

                            1. re: christy319

                              Correct, parking and walking.

                      2. re: clearskies0810

                        Mi La Cay is an excellent selection. Although, if you want to go there on the weekend, be prepared for a crowd. For other commenters who complain about the lack of Vietnamese clientele at other restaurants, Mi La Cay is definitely favored by the local Vietnamese community.

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                        Mi La Cay
                        718 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

                    2. I'm going to give a vote to Ben Thanh. Been meaning to give them some points here for a long time, but keep forgetting. I grew up eating Viet, and this place is the best and most consistent I've found in Seattle over about 13 years. It's down in the valley near Franklin HS. Not the most convenient location (unless you happened to live up the hill from there, which I used to), but not a far drive or bike and also near the new rail line. I live in Portland now, where the Vietnamese selection is much worse, so I make a trip to BT every time I"m up there.

                      Oh, and if you're just looking for Pho and don't want fancy, Pho Bac.

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                      Ben Thanh Restaurant
                      2815 S Hanford St, Seattle, WA 98144

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JimDandy

                        I'm with you on Ben Thanh, for me it is the only place that remotely approaches the food we had in Vietnam. Green Leaf and TT have their moments, but on authenticity, Ben Thanh smokes them. They have a fair amount of stuff not listed on the menu, if you know you're stuff--a whole range of lau...Here's my ramblings about it: http://thegastrognome.wordpress.com/2...

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                        Ben Thanh Restaurant
                        2815 S Hanford St, Seattle, WA 98144

                        1. re: dagoose

                          Glad to have another supporter. I keep asking these guys to think about opening a place in Portland. Any other Ben Thanh lovers, chime in.

                          -----
                          Ben Thanh Restaurant
                          2815 S Hanford St, Seattle, WA 98144

                      2. Can't believe people slagging on Green Leaf. It's still an excellent spot for Vietnamese IMO.