Pho & Japanese Steakhouse (Raleigh)
The Brentwood restaurant, former home of Fortune Palace, is open. I went for lunch today and can report the following:
The inside layout is basically the same, with the addition of a small sushi bar in the back where the buffet steam tables had been, a well-needed new coat of paint, and 5 unnecessary (IMHO) TV screens hung around the restaurant. Oh, and the fish tank is gone, too.
The menu is short. There are all the usual suspect "Japanese" dishes - teriyaki and hibachi fill-in-the-protein and an assortment of sushi rolls. I was offered the sushi menu but didn't accept it as I really wouldn't be ordering sushi here in the first place. From what I saw, no one else accepted it either. The lunch menu, which I hadn't seen earlier on line, also has a small assortment of pho, bun bo hue, other noodle dishes, and a few bun and com dishes. Vietnamese appetizers seem to be limited to spring and summer rolls. The other appetizers are mostly tempura and tataki. The only menu I could find was this one
The lunch menu is shorter but, on the plus side, this is the only Raleigh Vietnamese restaurant that offers lunch-sized portions of some of the larger, generally more expensive dishes.
We ordered goi cuon (summer rolls), bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup), and bun bo xao xa (lemongrass beef with rice noodle). The summer rolls were very fresh. In fact, they were slightly warmer than room temperature. I would put that down to the warm water in which the rice paper had probably just been soaked. The insides were appropriately cool/cold. The lemongrass beef looked like a small portion as it was a less expensive lunch size, but there was absolutely more than enough there to eat. The beef was well seasoned and cooked somewhere between medium and medium-rare. That would be a plus to most beef eaters, just not me. The bun bo hue was a mild disappointment. The broth was not spicy and tasted a bit watery. The balance of vegetables in the soup was good, though, and by the end of the bowl had infused the broth and improved it. The usual blood cubes were not present and were not offered as an option. I'm not sure if it's not offered in general or just not offered to us as we're not Asian.
The majority of the customers were Asian and most appeared to be ordering pho. The service is well meaning but very spotty. Oddly enough, one of the waiters is a young non-Asian man. The rest of the staff appear to be family. Hopefully the service will fall into place when the restaurant is open longer.
There are special discounts offered every day. Monday is 20% off hibachi, Tuesday 20% off Vietnamese, Wednesday BOGO sushi rolls, Thurs - Sun 50% off kids meals and appetizers with entree order, Mon - Fri Happy Hour 4-6 PM, and one other that I didn't write down.
Very long story short, the restaurant is worth a return visit and the next time I will order pho. I don't think this is the best Vietnamese restaurant that Raleigh has seen, but it does have potential. Hopefully they just need some time to get their feet on the ground and hopefully they will decide to expand the Vietnamese menu and jettison the hibachi/teriyaki.