First of all, I hadn’t been to the West side for quite awhile and we got stuck in some killer traffic at 38th and Lafayette Road because of construction. I am not sure when it is supposed to be done, but if you are looking for a fast lunch, you may want to take this fact into consideration.
We finally made it and sat down to try and figure out what to order. I had read that the Vietnamese pancake was good, and it sounded good to me, so we ordered that as a starter. This thing is huge and full of lots of stuff, so honestly, it would be a very filling lunch on its own. It was a very light eggy pancake/crepe type thing that was filled with sliced of tender and flavorful pork as well as a few small shrimps and lots of sautéed bean sprouts. The pieces of pork were not tough but had nice crisp seared edges. The shrimp were also tasty. The sprouts gave a nice crunch. The whole thing was served on top of large Romaine lettuce leaves which our server informed us you were supposed to rip off and fill with the crepe (as well as some fresh basil leaves on the side) and then dip the whole bite into a sweet chile sauce. Hubby was complaining that we had obviously ordered too much, but as it turned out, not only was this pancake really good, it was also the best thing we ate that day, so we were glad we had order it.
I ordered the rare beef Pho. They did a good job with the beef—they obviously just dropped raw beef slices into the broth to keep it from overcooking. The strips of beef were quite tender; they just lacked much flavor, which is the overall problem I have with Pho. This broth had some richness to it, and got a little more spicy and flavorful after I immediately added all the fresh peppers served alongside as well as most of the basil. But honestly, I still just can’t get that excited about Pho. It is hard to eat (all those noodles and all the broth—spoon or chopsticks? You can’t get both at the same time). I think I would rather have some flavorful noodles fried with some veggies and eat my soup separately. I just haven’t met a Pho that has changed my opinion on this issue yet. This is probably the best one I have had, but compared with the pancake, it was boring.
Hubby had a lunch special from the Chinese side of the menu (they have a Vietnamese side as well as a Chinese side). He had his perennial favorite, General Tso’s chicken. He also got a cup of hot and sour soup with it and a spring roll and fried rice (included as part of the lunch deal). The soup was not particularly hot or sour, and was quite eggy. There was a bit of pepper in it, but not the real peppery and sour flavor that a good hot and sour soup has. It was ok, but again, a little bland.
As for the chicken, he hated it. I think the word he used was “horrible.” The sauce was really gloopy and sweet and according to him tasted like it was straight out of a bottle. He literally ate one or two pieces and didn’t touch the rest. The fried rice was basically “brown with peas in it.” (Again, hubby’s words). He described it as flavorless. He gave up and just finished off the pancake.
So while we started out well, and I would totally get the pancake again if I ever went back (questionable), I would stay away from the Chinese side of the menu and try and stick with the Vietnamese side. Based on our limited experience, it seems a bit more finessed. But as my fortune cookie said that day, “It is proper to speak the truth.” So there you go. The truth is, other than the first course, which I really liked, it wasn’t that good.
4351 Lafayette Road