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Cyclo Vietnamese, Chandler AZ

p
Peter D. Tillman Aug 1, 2005 10:31 AM

First-rate Vietnamese, best I've had in Phoenix. Tried the Banh Xeo, a shrimp and pork-filled 'crepe', really almost an omelette, lots of sprouts and greenery too. Outstanding! My wife had the Thai beef salad, very good. BYOB.

The owner's daughter(?) was chatting with her girlfriends at the table behind us, and the kitchen misdirected an order of spring rolls to our table. She insisted we try them, and they were very tasty. A charming young woman. Oh, and it's pronounced "seek-lo", a la francais, for the old pedicab out front.

Folks, this is a classic ethnic Chowhound find -- cheap, friendly and very, very good food. Worth a detour if you're passing through PHX. A "Nikki's Pick" in Phoenix magazine.

1919 W Chandler Blvd, near the new 101 loop Fwy. 963-4490

Happy eating,
Pete Tillman
Tucson

  1. b
    Beavis Jul 25, 2009 05:50 PM

    Went tonight for my first time. I have to say I was disapointed. $21 in food and my wife and I felt like we just split one app. The spring rolls are tiny, the short rib dish was also very small. The green beens were good, but there should have been more. There are better values out there.

    1. a
      aeiou May 12, 2009 04:18 PM

      I feel bad giving any negative reviews. I admit I should go back and try it again, but in spite of really wanting to like this place - the decor is adorable, the owner was adorable, the location is close to my house...but the spring rolls were pretty bland and the lemongrass chicken was so over cooked I could barely chew it. There was barely any lemongrass to detect and it was a total one-note dish. My dining partner's entree looked decent, with lots of fresh veggies. I suppose I just have a low tolerance for bad first impressions. Oh, and I got some random tea drink that I didn't order, even though the server repeated my drink order back to me?? It was tasty, but still not a good omen in a place with no more than 20 covers.

      4 Replies
      1. re: aeiou
        bortukan May 13, 2009 09:54 AM

        Sorry your experience wasn't good! If you decide to go back, I'd recommend beef or pork dishes, they usually have a great char on the outside. Or the green beans raved about above. I like the salads too. I've often had not-so-great service there (and it sounds like that's the normal state of things); everyone's always very nice, but things tend to come out whenever they're ready rather than in any kind of meaningful order. At their price point I don't really expect all that much in terms of service, though, and the lack of polish makes it a place we're comfortable taking our toddler for an early dinner (hooray!).

        1. re: aeiou
          i
          Inertia Jun 16, 2009 10:59 AM

          Don't feel bad - I just went to Cyclo for lunch this Saturday and was very disappointed. I've been there many times before and was so excited to go back, but this was a whole different experience. The food was very bland. The decor has also been overhauled, and Justine was nowhere to be found. We ordered a group of small dishes - the pork short ribs, the spring rolls, the rice crepe, and my favorite, the spicy beef salad. Almost everything was a disappointment. The short ribs had little flavor and no spice, and the peanut sauce for the spring rolls was watery and almost flavorless. I have had the spring rolls there in the past, and these weren't on the same level. I was most disappointed in the spicy beef salad. It looked like the kitchen had taken the same sliced beef they might add to Pho, added some spices to the outside, and cooked it briefly. The beef was grey and the spices only coated a bit of the surface, leaving it unpleasantly grainy. There was no chili pepper in sight and they were not at all spicy. The pleasant citrus notes that used to be a major part of the dish were just gone. There also was hardly any lettuce, and the portion of meat was smaller than it had been in the past. It was somewhat rescued by the addition of chili paste from the table, but that shouldn't be necessary.

          Like I said, I loved Cyclo. I couldn't wait to take my friend there on Saturday and my mouth was watering as I imagined the wonderful flavors that awaited us. But sadly, the reality was far from what I remembered.

          1. re: Inertia
            Jen76 Jun 16, 2009 01:52 PM

            I also did not have a favorable experience there, unfortunately. I met up with a group of coworkers. All of us thought the food was rather bland. My pho just didn't have much flavor to it. Also, the young waitress that walked around refilling water glasses has an unpleasant habit of resting the spout of the pitcher on the edge of everyone's water glass. As she's filling the glass, the water tops over the spout of the pitcher. I don't particularly like to think about drinking "backwash" from everyone in the restaurant.

            1. re: Inertia
              z
              ziggylu Jun 16, 2009 02:18 PM

              "Justine[sic] was nowhere to be found."

              I think this is a key point with this particularly restaurant. We live up the street and have been eating regularly there since she opened.

              We actually stopped eating there last year as it seemed we were disappointed everytime we went in. Quality has really slipped and it just wasn't as good as it used to be. This was also about the time of the infamous inspection. This was a period where Justina didn't seem to be on premise as much as she typically was - back when she was really working on the second location perhaps.

              We hadn't been in over a year when friends of ours convinced us to go back a couple weeks ago. We were delighted to find things back to normal and tasting delicious again. Justina indicated that the second location wasn't happening anytime soon and she was really just focusing on this location. She also mentioned she realized she really needed to be there.

              We've only been back that one time but like I said we were happy to see things going well and tasting well again. I wonder if your poor experience is because she wasn't around that day?

          2. ccl1111 May 7, 2008 01:18 PM

            Sounds like Justina has finally decided on her 2nd location.

            http://www.azcentral.com/ent/dining/a...

            Being from what is now termed "south Scottsdale", I had really been hoping for an Old Town outpost.

            Now she just needs to clone herself. : )

            3 Replies
            1. re: ccl1111
              silverbear May 7, 2008 01:25 PM

              I'll be delighted if Cyclo opens along Central Avenue, but I wouldn't consider this a done deal. It looks like it may take some time and money before the new Cyclo opens:

              http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bell...

              1. re: silverbear
                m
                Maggie Kramer Jul 30, 2008 08:45 AM

                So we just visited Cyclo for lunch last week, apparently the place had just been renovated. Excited by the BYO. Had a seafood soup that was really nice - the herbs were really fresh (wish there would have been a little more, though). We ended up bringing in a half bottle of red, but it sat in the car too long and spoiled, LOL.

                Had the Vietnamese coffee at the end, reminded me of my girlfriend's parents - who always used the strainer, was a real jolt of caffeine!

                The one complaint we had was for a newly renovated place, it could have been a little cleaner. The dishes were greasy and the floor was sticky. And we just read on another blogging website that they had some issues with a health inspection (some pretty major ones). It might not be within the UA of Chowhound so I won't post it - but I'd look it up on the county website (EV Tribune also has this info) before going in there again. Some of the violations DO pertain to food quality, icky.

                1. re: Maggie Kramer
                  silverbear Jul 30, 2008 08:55 PM

                  I had lunch at Cyclo last week. The good news: the new look as noted by Maggie. The bad news: I asked the owner about when the second location would open. She didn't give me a definitive answer, but basically told me not to hold my breath. Between the gas line issues and the weak economy, the Central Avenue location will be a long time in the future.

            2. c
              cakennedy Jan 7, 2008 07:29 AM

              My wife and I had dinner there Saturday evening, and it was just incredible. We had a few things go our way at the start -- didn't realize it was BYO until we got there, but a 10-minute wait gave enough time to run across to Basha's for their finest bottle of mass-produced brand-name Cabernet. (You know you're in Chandler when the checkout clerk says "Thirty bucks for a bottle of wine? I've never heard of that!")

              We narrowly avoided a 30-45 minute wait, and were seated immediately. Service was excellent throught the evening, with very good attention to food and drink (no corkage fee). The food was spectacular. We had: Suon Non (pork short ribs), Bo Tai Chanh (beef "capriccio", which we hoped was carpaccio, and -- whew -- it was), spicy garlic green beans, Bun Cha Ha Noi (pork/sausage vermicelli), and Pho Xe Lua (beef/beef/beef soup). Every single dish was better than the one before it, executed to perfection, and made for just a wonderful and satisfying meal.

              Total bill without wine was $39.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cakennedy
                jcoz23 Jan 7, 2008 10:45 AM

                How did the food pair with your mass-produced Cabernet? I have been wondering what wine to bring the next time I go. I was thinking a Riesling because they're supposed to go well with spicy food, but I tend to order pork & beef dishes, so maybe the red would be better...What did you think?

                1. re: jcoz23
                  c
                  cakennedy Jan 7, 2008 12:36 PM

                  Honestly, it was great. I think that was more a function of the food than anything special about Geyser Peak.

                  There is a surprising delicacy to many of the dishes at Cyclo, including fresh mint and cilantro sprigs you tear into the soup yourself. You don't necessarily need anything really big and bold. Had I planned ahead, I probably would have brought one of my favorite Burgundies, something with a real depth and subtlety, but not huge amounts of fruit. The dinner would be ideal with a really old Bordeaux, but then what wouldn't? Actually, it might be a lot of fun to try with a cold Beaujolais, epsecially with any of the grilled-meat dishes. I guess I'll have to go back and try a different wine another couple dozen times. :-D

                  Edit: the wineglasses are garden-variety thick-lipped 3/4 spheres. No corkage fee.

              2. d
                dhammer53 Dec 23, 2007 07:17 PM

                I haven't a clue what all the excitement is all about. My wife and I had dinner at Cyclo last week. If this place was in NY, LA, or San Francisco, it wouldn't even make the radar screen. This place is more of a 15, rather than the 26 for food they received from Zagat.

                Our dishes were just ordinary. Nothing to write home about.

                FYI, our other 2 dinners were at Barrio Cafe and Roaring Fork. At least those 2 lived up to the hype.

                5 Replies
                1. re: dhammer53
                  HomeCookKirsten Dec 23, 2007 07:51 PM

                  DHammer53, without having been there to taste your dishes or have your experience...the basis of comparison seems off to me...meaning we are not in NY, LA OR SF.

                  In my opinion Cyclo is amazing and a great example of local, independent, Asian-fusion cuisine that is welcoming and unassuming enough to take root in Chandler.

                  Also best flavored, clearest pho broth in town...and the green beans are amazing.

                  1. re: dhammer53
                    silverbear Dec 23, 2007 08:36 PM

                    Mixed feelings about this. I like Cyclo, but agree that it gets overhyped. It's Vietnamese food made accessible for non-Vietnamese customers by a charismatic owner. That's great, but the food is not necessarily better than at some more authentic places that don't generate the same buzz. Don't get me wrong: I eat there; In fact, I've run into HCK there, so I couldn't claim otherwise in this thread even if I wanted to. Still, I'm not sure it's worth a long trip from other parts of town.

                    On the other hand, I bristle at "NY, LA, or San Francisco" comments. I've had plenty of mediocre meals in all three of those cities. As for the 26 on Zagat, I think most regulars on Chowhound don't take Zagat very seriously.

                    -----
                    Cyclo Vietnamese Cuisine
                    1919 W Chandler Blvd, Chandler, AZ 85224

                    1. re: dhammer53
                      z
                      ziggylu Dec 23, 2007 08:45 PM

                      Well, I live within walking distance of Cyclo...in the suburbs of Phoenix...which sure ain't metro NYC, SF, or LA(yes, I'm well acquainted with all three of those cities so i'm pretty certain my neighborhood is nothing like them). (and I to say on my last trip to SF I was completely non-plussed by the Slanted Door given all the hype it gets...I'll take Cyclo anyday over that at a fraction of the cost)

                      It may not be the most authentic Vietnamese food available but it's a gem in this part of town and we're happy to have Justina as our neighbor. We could use more places like hers in this little neck of the woods. I know I've mentioned on this site before I could live on her green beans.

                      1. re: ziggylu
                        HomeCookKirsten Dec 23, 2007 09:24 PM

                        All good comments...I think all of Phx gets stuck in an "overhype" trap on occasion because of so many years of so-so dining and resort dining, which we have overcome, but still haunts us.

                        Is Cyclo authentic Vietnamese, maybe not? But affordable, accessible, delicious, fun, yes to all!

                        Agree with Silverbear that if I had 35-45 minutes to drive I may not make it when other options are closer, but it's a beacon of entreprenuerial dedication and good food in the SE Valley and certainly holds its own.

                        1. re: HomeCookKirsten
                          misohungrychewlow Dec 25, 2007 08:08 PM

                          Good conversation -- I've lived in the Squaw Peak/Biltmore area for 8-9 years now, but I lived in south Tempe for 15 years and I respect the East Valley's diverse offerings ... I've never been to Cyclo. I do enjoy and endorse Da Vang and Noodles Ranch, which are both very good but very different from each other. So ... Cyclo is worth just how far a drive? ... ;-) ... Inqiring pho hounds want to know!

                    2. jkgourmet Oct 16, 2006 04:03 PM

                      I agree that Cyclo is wonderful, except for the service. And Justina is a matter of taste and mood. The food is decidedly not authentic Vietnamese, but a mix of Vietnamese and Thai. Pan Asian is as good a name as any. Whatever it is, it is delicious.

                      I've enjoyed many meals at Pho Bang over the years, but the cleanliness of the place disturbs me. The grease and dirt on the walls is frightening. I hope it's been sanitized since the last time I was there.

                      Lunch at Yen Mi on Sunday was a bit disappointing. Must go back to Dragonfly and try it again, hopefully the kitchen will have the items on the menu this time.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jkgourmet
                        starlightjulian Sep 20, 2007 12:52 AM

                        I LOVED the chicken salad at Dragonfly (actually, the dressing was the KEY to its success) The salmon wrap was very bland, and I had to dress it up with a lot of peanut sauce. The lemongrass chicken with vegetables was delish!

                        1. re: starlightjulian
                          k
                          kathrynsummer Dec 21, 2007 04:55 PM

                          Dragonfly IS delicious! That's another place I frequent. Delicious pho--wholesome & great especially when it's cold.

                      2. k
                        kathrynsummer Oct 15, 2006 03:41 AM

                        I was very excited to try this restaurant, but was disappointed. I didn't find the food extremely authentic. It's more of a pan-Vietnamese restaurant.

                        My favorite Vietnamese restaurant is Pho Bang---get #35 marinated thinly-sliced beef & shrimp that you grill at your own table. Put deliciously fresh cilantro, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. to make your own summer rolls. It is fabulous!

                        1. j
                          jkgourmet Aug 3, 2005 05:43 PM

                          suspect the "owner's daughter" you are referring to was, in fact, the owner herself, Justine. About thirty, very pretty, VERY chatty, very hip (every newspaper uses this term for her, and I must agree). Some think she's over the top, some find her annoying, some think she's charming. I find the food excellent, the service usually just acceptable, avoid the place when very crowded as the service gets out of control. But I do enjoy the food - esp. that crepe and the other appetizers. We usually just make a meal of them, and maybe one noodle entree.

                          1. d
                            Darrin Chandler Aug 2, 2005 02:14 PM

                            I've read about Cyclo on http://www.iamjacksbrain.com/ a couple of times, and this post reminded me again, so my wife and I went last night.

                            I stupidly forgot all about the BYOB. My bad...

                            The food was delicious!

                            The service stank! It wasn't at all crowded, and they seemed to have enough staff. I don't get it. Anyone else here have comments about the service at Cyclo? Was it just a bad night?

                            More details at the link below.

                            Link: http://www.stilyagin.com/darrin/dinin...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Darrin Chandler
                              i
                              IamJacksBrain Aug 2, 2005 05:23 PM

                              I don't really consider Cyclo a Vietnamese restaurant since their menu is generally Asian, but the service really is typical of a Vietnamese restaurant (meaning it's pretty bad, and the food gets sent out when it's ready whether it's an appetizer or entree).

                              I've gotten used to it so it doesn't bother me.

                            2. t
                              themis Aug 1, 2005 01:55 PM

                              This place is a gem, and I wish they'd stop writing it up, it's going to start getting too crowded. The spicy green beans are one of their best dishes, along with the crispy noodles and the tamarind short ribs. I'm torn between always ordering these and resolving to try something new at each visit.

                              1. g
                                Gayle Aug 1, 2005 11:12 AM

                                Peter, that was probably Justina. She's the owner, about 30 years old. She's a complete hoot.

                                Glad you liked it, it's one of my favorite places! Next time, get the spicy green bean side dish, it's delish!

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