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Vietnamese restaurant recommendation?

I want to take a friend who has never had Vietnamese food before to a great place in or around Boston. I have only had it once or twice myself, so not sure where to go. I've heard Pho Pasteur in Chinatown is great...any other recommendations?

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Pho Pasteur Restaurant
682 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111

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  1. pho pasteur is good for chinatown but head to dorchester if you want really good vietnamese food. pho 2000, pho hoa, pho so 1, and anh hong are all good options

    15 Replies
    1. re: galangatron

      I agree. I'm a big fan of Pho Hoa, Pho 2000, and especially, Pho So 1.

      1. re: hiddenboston

        Why do you recommend Pho So 1 over the others? Are particular dishes better? Are you talking specifically about the pho, or all dishes? It's been a while since I went to any of these places, but I remember liking Pho 2000 best back in the day.

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        Pho 2000 Restaurant
        198 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

        1. re: Dave MP

          I've been to both several times, and just feel that the food generally seems a little better at Pho So 1. Slightly more comfortable atmosphere as well. I've had a couple of average dishes at Pho 2000, but still like the place. Can't really go wrong with either of them, though.

          1. re: hiddenboston

            If it helps the OP, there's also a Pho So 1 in Randolph, which may be easier to get to and/or park than Dorchester.

            On a related note, anyone (besides me) been to The Rice Barn in Needham for upscale Thai food? I think it's excellent, the best Asian food I've had in the Boston area, and it reminds me of our favorite upscale Vietnamese place in SF, The Golden Turtle.

            Are there any other upscale Asian places around?

            1. re: winedude

              I would say that East by Northeast is an upscale Asian restaurant.

              Perhaps Changsho is an Upscale Americanized Chinese restaurant. Fuloon is nicely decorated on the inside, as is Sichuan Garden in Framingham. Both are excellent authentic, restaurants as well.

              Amarin of Thailand is nicely decorated inside, although the food is nothing special.

              Myers + Chang is nicely decorated in a casual chic way.

              Of course, there are many upscale Japanese restaurants. O Ya, Oishii, Uni, Oga's, Shiki, and more.

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              O Ya
              9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

              Shiki
              9 Babcock Street, Brookline, MA 02446

              Sichuan Garden
              295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

              Changsho
              1712 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

              East by Northeast
              1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

              1. re: lipoff

                Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I should have clarified that by "upscale" I meant with higher-quality, more expensive ingredients. What I liked recently at The Rice Barn was a filet mignon special, with sauteed pieces of tender filet, in a delicate sauce, and sauteed peppers, and a sea bass special, that had a nice sized sea-bass filet in an orange-infused sauce that was beautiful and delicious.

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                Rice Barn
                1037 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

                1. re: winedude

                  I actually don't understand what you mean. The hallmark of quality for most non-Japanese East-Asian food is not the expense or quality of the protein ingredients, but the quality of the spices and sauces, and the skill with which they are deployed. When you talk about filet mignon at a Thai restaurant, you are not really talking about real Thai food --- you're talking about Western food with Thai spices. There's nothing wrong with that per se, although there's just been less development of this fusion cuisine, and I find most examples of it to be unbalanced. The menu at the Mandarin Oriental Bar (M Bar) in Back Bay is filled with this style. Their "Thai Style Beef Salad" uses very high quality steak, but does not taste very Thai. The Yum Nuer (Beef Salad) at S&I Thai uses a more humble cut of meat, but the taste of that Yum Nuer was an explosion of flavor occasioned by the sauces and spices. If you like high-quality proteins with vaguely Asian flavors, M Bar might actually be a good choice --- it's one of the better examples of that genre in this city.

                  However, you might also enjoy more authentic Asian restaurants, such as Dok Bua and S&I Thai for Thai, Fuloon, Sichuan Gourmet or Jo Jo Taipei for Chinese, Chung Ki Wa and New Jang Su for Korean, and the Vietnamese restaurants in Dorchester recommended already on this thread.

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                  Chung Ki Wa
                  27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                  JoJo Tai Pei Restaurant
                  103 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                  S&I To Go
                  168A Brighton Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                  Sichuan Gourmet
                  1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                  1. re: lipoff

                    Well, I appreciate your suggestions. I think it's a fair observation to say that I prefer Western food with Asian spices and preparation. I've also been accused of, and plead guilty to, preferring the food that that wealthy people in Asia eat. For that reason, I really like high-end, but authentic, Vietnamese cuisine, which defintely shows the French influence from French Indo-China. And why I like the Cambodian side of the menu at Elephant Walk.

                    I've had more than my fair share of authentic Asian food, having lived in SF for years. But I struggle with some of the inferior cuts of steak, and odd chicken parts, and random and/or intense over-spicing that I've experienced--it may be authentic, but I just don't like it. And I really loathe the sweet or fried or garlicky experience of "suburban" Americanized Chinese-yuck.

                    Which brings me back to my original recommendation for The Rice Barn. I'm not trying to shill for it, or oversell it. But I've liked every meal I've had there. Your mileage may vary.

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                    Elephant Walk
                    2067 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140

                    Rice Barn
                    1037 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

                    1. re: winedude

                      The "food that wealthy people in Asia eat" is often just an imitation of what wealthy Americans and Europeans eat.

                      1. re: galleygirl

                        I'm not sure that's entirely fair. In my experience, much of what gets imported to America or Europe is the local "peasant" food, and we appreciate it for its exoticism. When it's well done, it's a treat, and searching for it is one of the goals of Chowhound, and a personal goal as well. It's more unusual to find a place that brings the experience of the upper classes from these lands.

                        I'm not trying to start class warfare, just offering my opinion. And, by the way, it doesn't translate to most other foods. I love "peasant" Mexican, French, Italian, and Portugese food, for example. But I strongly prefer the lighter touch, and higher quality proteins, in this other type of Asian food.

                        1. re: winedude

                          It is indeed rare to find very expensive, non-Japanese, authentic Asian restaurants in the US. You would enjoy the new Lotus of Siam and possibly Shang in New York City, I think.

                          It's fine to like Western food with Asian spices and preparation, but this is not what the "upper classes" in Asia eat so often either. Most East Asian food, even the most expensive, arises from a long historical tradition of "peasant food". In fact, those so-called "inferior cuts of steak, and odd chicken parts" are prized for their particular textures, which have been found to complement certain spices and sauces, and have inspired the development of particular cooking techniques. In the most expensive restaurants in Hunan province, for instance, you can pay a lot for a dish featuring chicken gizzard, not because the chicken gizzard is expensive itself, but because of the skill of the chef who can cook it well.

                          In any event, the closest approximation to what wealthy people in Asia eat are some of the restaurants I recommended above. If you don't care for offal or very spicy dishes, don't order them! But the menu of Fuloon, for instance, has many non-offal and non-spicy dishes that are superbly crafted.

              2. re: winedude

                I wouldn't go as far as saying Rice Barn is the best Asian food around here! It's very good, but I wouldn't make a trip out to Needham just to eat there.

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                Rice Barn
                1037 Great Plain Ave, Needham, MA 02492

                1. re: dlin2007

                  That's fair enough, I think. I just said it's my favorite, but not necessarily the best. To be candid, I haven't done that thorough a sample of Asian, though I'm looking forward to trying Duk Boa soon.

                  1. re: winedude

                    Dok Bua is great, better than any other Thai I've had anywhere in Boston area. BYOB and cheap

                    1. re: globalevent

                      I like Dok Bua quite a bit, but I don't really find them to be cheap anymore. It seems like every time I go the portions are a bit smaller and the prices a bit higher.

      2. I can't say that I'm an expert- but I think that Xihn Xihn on Beach Street in Chinatown is good and very user friendly for someone who has never had Vietnamese.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cpingenot

          Xinh Xinh is excellent and is in my opinion the best Vietnamese in the area outside of Dorchester. Anh Hong is great and has a broad menu if you do decide to go to Dorchester (you can get there easily on the T, Red Line to Fields Corner and then a short walk).

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          Xinh Xinh
          7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

          Anh Hong
          291 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

          1. re: cpingenot

            Second that reco. Try the duck salad. MMmmmm good

            1. re: cpingenot

              +1. Also not expert, but I find Xinh Xinh to be great too. Nice staff, some pictures on the menu, and IMO noticeably better than the rest of the Chinatown places.

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              Xinh Xinh
              7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

            2. Xinh Xinh is as good as any of the Dorchester places for grilled meats on rice or bun, and you can also get a pretty good pho, banh xeo, banh mi bo kho, roll your own banh hoi, fruit shakes

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              Xinh Xinh
              7 Beach St, Boston, MA 02111

              1 Reply
              1. re: Luther

                The fruit shakes are great, and there is that bewitching avocado shake...

              2. Pho Hoa in Chinatown serves Seven Courses of Beef, or Beef Seven Ways (forget exactly what they call it). It's a wonderful feast for two people for $35.00. Give yourselves plenty of time to enjoy all the different courses.

                3 Replies
                1. re: peregrine

                  I believe it is called Bo 7 Mon. I have always wanted to try it but never got around to it.

                  1. re: Johnresa

                    That's correct.
                    There are several translations.
                    Find a friend and try it sometime!

                  2. re: peregrine

                    You need a good crowd but An Hong in Dorchester does the 7 courses of beef and fish. Fish was a very fresh red snapper..

                    To address the above topic of higher quality ingredients, a good example is Tiger Tears from Myers & Chang vs Floating Rock/ Thmor Dat. M &C is using better quality beef but the flavors are more interesting and pronounced at FR/TD.

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

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                    Floating Rock
                    485 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

                  3. Le's - which used to be Pho Pasteur - is good and has nice decor. It's on Brighton Ave near Harvard in Allston.

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                    Pho Pasteur Restaurant
                    682 Washington St, Boston, MA 02111