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Oct 4, 2013 05:32 PM

Authentic Vietnamese

We now live in Smithville, about 50 miles east of Austin so don't get in as much as we used to. I was devastated when the Vietnamese restaurant on N. Lamar that used to be called Le Soleil closed (for a short period they had a different name which I can't seem to remember).. In any case, they had a huge and authentic menu.

Please don't bother to recommend Sunflower Café. Which we already frequent. I was the one who first put the information for them on this board many years ago and though we still enjoy going there occasionally I'd like to find one with a more extensive menu.

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  1. Sea Dragon has the most options of anything I've seen in town.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Carter B.

      Agree - Sea Dragon is now my go-to, but there definitely needs to be more viet restaurants. Kim Phung, which used to seem exotic 15+ years ago, just doesn't do it for me anymore.

      If you drive in from Smithville to go to Sea Dragon, call first. Sometimes they have weddings and the whole restaurant is shut down. Recently, I drove there with my mouth watering and couldn't get in!

      1. re: rudeboy

        I work walking distance from there. Went in once and saw the "buffet clientele" and walked right out. Can you guide me on what to order at lunch?

        1. re: amysuehere

          Yeah, lunch is more of a Chinese Buffet for office worker types. I haven't been in a while, so I don't know if they have started adding Viet dishes (when I went for lunch years ago, they only had spring rolls and imperial rolls for Viet offerings). You have to order off the menu, but you'll have to pay more.

          One of my favorites is the CRAWFISH SAUTEED WITH BLACK PEPPERCORN. Typical S&P dish with rice on the side for $9.95. I also like the frog's legs prepared the same way. The vermicelli dishes are typical, but good and at lunch prices. I like to get the VERMICELLI WITH CHARCOAL GRILLED PORK and add shrimp to it - I love the pork and shrimp combo.

          1. re: amysuehere

            Amysuehere the Hieu Tieu Ap Chao with your protein of choice is our go to here, dine in or carry out. We've also had good experiences with their seafood dishes with lobster, squid, etc. The buffet is okay for a buffet but their calamari just may be that pig anus fakester that I've heard people serve (maybe not, but they are all rings". We live a mile from there and what they do well is great.

            1. re: slowcoooked

              Thanks! I'll give it a try on my next slow day at work.

              1. re: amysuehere

                I've actually not eaten that dish elsewhere, so I may be overly excited. But if you haven't tried it, the stars of that show are sort of like rice flour dumplings that are crispy and brown on the outside and soft on the inside - and they soak up their sauce a bit. I'm not supposed to eat that type of starchy dish but once every few months I go get it and go nuts. Folks on another website say that's one of their best dishes and as good as any version in Houston. Pic is of their dish.

                The other pic is my new favorite citrus marinade I found in big lots last week down the strip a bit, Mojo by Badia foods. Garlicky and citrusy with great balance, and wonderful on chicken thighs. 2 bucks for a big bottle of it worth two meals at least. Some of the juiciest grilled bone in chicken I've ever made. I bought it thinking it may suck, but in fact google reviews are like mine - people love the stuff. I'm sure grilled shrimp would be divine after an hour in that. I'm sure you know it well since you work close, but I love the random kick ass finds that can be had on the cheap. Their peanut butter filled pretzel bites are sinful too, and usually always there.

                1. re: slowcoooked

                  Ah, yes! Use that sauce all the time. Add some Sriracha, garlic, ginger and pineapple juice and you have a killer marinade for flank steak ( I also like a little Worcestershire, but hubs prefers without)!

                  I know nothing of Vietnamese food, so I'm flying blind. Thanks, slowcooked.

              2. re: slowcoooked

                Sea Dragon already serves fried intestines as an appetizer (called crispy pork intestinal bun), so there's really no value in serving it again as fake fried calamari. Having tried it (and was asked "Are you sure???" by the waiter), I'd say they didn't taste anything alike.

                1. re: verily

                  I've had intestines at Asia Cafe, and they were really good. It might gross some people out, but this might, too:

                  Various tissues, scraps, organ meats, blood, and fat, salted, macerated, and stuffed inside pig intestines....

                  Otherwise known as "sausage."

                  Don't see how calamari and anus would be remotely similar.

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    I should have exerted a tad more effort research-wise. It looks as if the "pig anus disguised as calamari" story was a tad on the shady side. I've eaten plenty of intestine, maybe not lower colon or pig / beef rectum, and would think it should taste a touch different from rounds of fried squid body. But I must admit, I wondered upon hearing that about the perfectly round never tentacular squid served up at Sea Dragon at lunch. never. here's a great chow thread all about pork bung and anus including some calamari talk:

            2. re: rudeboy

              To be clear, Tam's is my goto place and favorite place in Austin (I've been hundreds of times) but Sea Dragon has the most extensive menu in town I've seen and it has been good. Yes, lunch buffet should be avoided and you have to ask for the menu. They have a beef three ways variation in beef seven ways that is good

          2. Dong Nai at Ben White and S, Lamar doesn't have the most extensive Vietnamese menu (they have a lot of Chinese as well) but is undeservedly overlooked when it comes to Vietnamese food.



            1. Tam's is great.

              I have also been raving about Sea Dragon on this board for years. Here is an older post of mine on them with recommended dishes, if anyone is interested:


              1. I've mentioned it elsewhere on here, but Tan My (my go-to for pho) has great Bun Bo Hue if you're into some slightly more off the path/adventurous eating. It's barn-y... but pretty damn tasty.

                7 Replies
                1. re: popvulture

                  The people running Pho Saigon kinda freaked out when I said that I *did* want the congealed pork blood cubes! Haven't had it at Tan My - can you get pig's feet in the Bo Bun Hue there?

                  1. re: rudeboy

                    Yep, and the same thing happened to me there. The guy very suspiciously asked "you want the blood... and the pig's foot... and the pork cake?" The latter was by far the funkiest thing.

                    1. re: popvulture

                      Oh, I forgot about pork I want to try Tan My's version.

                      1. re: popvulture

                        what's pork cake? I'm Vietnamese....just curious as sometimes descriptions get lost in translation.

                        1. re: seamunky

                          I think he called it pork cake... it's been a while, so I could be getting it wrong. It does sound pretty silly.

                          Basically it was a pork meatball, probably steamed or boiled; I could see marks where it was tied into form with cheesecloth or something of the like. Definitely made with a lot of organ meat. Super strong taste.

                        2. re: popvulture

                          Tan My is 4 blocks from my house and I'm embarrassed / ashamed to not have hit them up in my 9 years here. I'm a low carber by necessity and the Pho I grew to know and love in Washington DC metro had to go. But your memorable label of bo bun hue as gnarly has stuck in my mind as a must try. and now pork cake? this sad story will end soon with a visit.

                      2. re: popvulture

                        had the bbh at Tan My last week and i'm sorry to say that i was really disappointed by the broth. it tasted like it was from boullion! it was super dark and salty. i couldn't see the noodles through the broth and there was way too much of it.

                        have you tried it at Thanh Nhi, popvulture? you can really pick out the pineapple and lemongrass flavors in her broth and she offers sate and stinky fermented shrimp paste to further enhance the pungency.

                      3. there are some very authentic vietnamese, home style items at Fresh Tofu in the chinatown center on North Lamar. Caramelized pork belly and whole boiled eggs, bitter melon stuffed with pork and woodear mushroom soup, fried tofus, puddings, jellies, etc.

                        also check out Lily's Sandwich.. they have lots of authentic snacks, noodles, and rice based dishes. their banh mi are great, too.