Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vietnamese-Asian Restaurant

Restaurant: Vietnamese-Asian Restaurant
Address: 7212 Jones St - In the mini-mall north of Nebraska Furniture Mart
Website: None.
Genres: vietnamese, thai
Check Constraints: No checks accepted.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Mango Bubble Drink ($2.99)
  • Vietnamese Egg Rolls with Vegetables ($4.50)
  • Street Noodles with Chicken ($6.25)
The name of this restaurant could only be more generic if they went ahead and just had a blinking neon sign that read "FOOD HERE". That said; it's fantastic. It's owned by a Vietnamese immigrant and run by his children, and the authenticity of the dishes shows through without sacrificing much in the way of appealing to the average American palate, especially considering that some of the primary ingredients (cilantro, tofu) are becoming much more well-known.

The building isn't spectacular in and of itself. There are several very nice wood carvings around the restaurant, and a Buddha statue right by the front door, so the place hovers in the "unremarkable" zone of decor, without diving into "plain" or skyrocketing into "Hey! I found this rusty tricycle and this ukulele! Let's bolt them onto the wall!" It does get a little dim in there during lunch since most of the windows are blocked by an entry hallway, but you can see your food and unless you've got a book with you it won't be a problem. On to food discussion!

If you've never heard of "bubble tea" or "bubble drinks" before, let me enlighten you. Picture a smoothie involving, in this case, mango. So, mango, milk, some sugar, and some ice. Delicious, right? Drop that in a glass, and then pour in a handful of tapioca pearls. Provide an extra-wide straw, and you are set to test your suction mettle! Since cassava (tapioca) flour has little to no flavor, the only purpose of the pearls is to provide texture and fun. If you're not really a fan of gummy items or don't relish the thought of suddenly getting some texture in your smoothie, then steer clear. Otherwise, definitely give it a shot - the appeal is fairly inexplicable until you try it. The bubble drinks here are flavorful, come with plenty of tapioca, and are remarkably cheap, which is an extra incentive to experience something new.

The egg rolls, in and of themselves, aren't that spectacular. The filling is good, the outside is done very crispy, and though they're $4.50 for 4, they're not terribly expensive. When eaten as intended, though, they vault up a level on the Tasty-o-Meter; they're served with lettuce and cilantro, as well as a dipping sauce, and when the cilantro and the roll are wrapped in the lettuce and dipped, you get an excellent blend of both crispy and soft and hot and cold, with a strong hit of cilantro, of which I am a huge fan. It's a shame there are only four, since that means I only got to eat one. The satay (as ordered by ND) was delicious as well, but he'll talk about that in his part.

A mention here of the soup Mecha ordered, which was like unto an ascension into heaven, would not be amiss. I have got to get me a bowl next time.

The street noodles - which I am assuming means "Like noodles cooked by a street-cart vendor" and not "We found these noodles in the street" - were a very solid choice. I almost considered the pad thai, but turned away at the last second because I was looking for something new. The noodles are little more than onion wedges cooked with flat rice noodles and chicken, with an egg cracked into them, which makes for a delicious if perhaps a little plain dish. Some cilantro or bean sprouts on top would definitely not have gone amiss, definitely. I could have used some of the sriracha or hoisin sauce on each table, but decided to run with it plain for the duration of the meal. I don't regret that, but next time I'm definitely going to put the spurs to the dish and see what I can make it do.

  • Thai Iced Tea (2.50)
  • Salty Fried Pork Chops (5.50)
  • Chicken Satay (4.50)
  • Beef Balls Soup (3.75)
I saw thai iced tea on the menu and decided I had to have it again. I wasn't disappointed. It was slightly less strong on the tea flavor, but otherwise was delicious, creamy, sweet tea goodness. It works well as a way to cool off your mouth when you ordered something a bit on the spicy side.

The chicken satay here was 2.50 less than the stuff at Thai Pepper, came on the same four skewers, but the portions were larger, and there were some veggies on the side. As if that weren't enough to make it worth the money, the rather lackluster and mild flavor from thai pepper is replaced by a delicious and ongoing spicy heat. The chicken itself was also just to that crispy point where chewing it becomes like a roast chicken flavored chewing gum, a taste I really can't get enough of.

The beef ball soup was, sadly, a disappointment. It' s not like it was a bad portion for the money, mind. But what you get is basically an extremely weak onion broth made from green onion and white onion, with sliced balls made of beef and onion. I am both not a fan of onion and ALSO not a fan of weak broth, so saying I was underwhelmed is a terrible understatement. Unfortunately, almost all the soups here involve mushrooms, which cuts down on my trying power.

The salty pork chops come on their own dish, with a side of steamed rice, and on the dish with them are tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. These will all be resting atop (well, more like IN) a bed of pork drippings. Do not waste these drippings. They are delicious. Yes, if you are on a diet, it will wreck it, because it is nothing but grease and spices. It doesn't matter. It's delicious.

This place, generic name aside, is well worth any time and money spent. Do yourself a favor and try it.

  • Beef Curry Noodles ($6.69)
The chicken satay was pretty flavorful. It had a nice, mild, lingering spiciness, which was good. I didn't really notice the flavor of the sauce that came with it. The egg rolls were a bit skinnier than typical (American) Chinese egg rolls. They were also a bit drier without the sauce that they came with. The main difference for me was the lettuce and sprig of cilantro that they came with.

There are a lot of options on the menu, and the beef curry noodles was the dish that piqued my interest the most. The menu said it had coconut milk, broccoli, and peppers. You get a pretty big sized bowl piled high. The first couple of tastes had me worried because it was definitely coconutty. I was afraid it'd end up being too strong, but once you dig in, the coconut flavor blends in really well. In addition to the items mentioned earlier, there were noodles, beef and onions, and it was swimming in a liquidy sauce. It was a little odd at first, but I ended up really enjoying it.

  • Chicken Satay ($4.50)
  • Thai's Hot and Spice Soup (Small: $2.25)
  • Red Curry Beef ($7.75) (I say this by back-calculating from the check.)
Okay, now let me get to it.

First off, the Satay was definitely an improvemnt over Thai Pepper, and people nailed that pretty much all over. Moogle brings up a point about the peanut sauce that came with it that should be brought out: the sauce was very weak/thin for peanut sauce that day. Our unnamed eating compatriot who more regularly goes there said it was thinner than normal, and we can't be sure whether that's a change, or just a sign of variability, or just a bad day, but either way, it's sadness, as I love peanut sauce. I do wish that there were more meat to the satay, though. (I've had some seriously meaty satay before, but it's not all that common.)

The eggrolls that others ordered were fine, and as Cham noted, what came with them all definitely added to the flavor positively. Apparently the guy who owns it used to come out and show people how to do it right, and I can see why.

The hot and spice soup was indeed spicy, containing pepper flakes, mushrooms, some shrimp (with tails on), and a few other things. Hint of lemongrass as well. It was just really, really good. And the heat level was just right for me to be able to eat it, as opposed to other spicy endeavors we've covered on this blog that I've had to turn away from. And the price is fantastic. If you can handle some moderate to serious spice, do yourself a favor and go for these.

My main meal, a curry beef, was just absolutely wonderful. This is a curry in the sense of almost a soup, so a tasty curry-flavored sorta-broth with beef and vegetables in it. The curry flavor itself was great, as good curry always is, with the hint of spice and coconut and so on, and generally I get chicken, so it was good to try it out with some beef. I don't really know what more to say here, if you like curry-flavoring, and like beef and sundry, you'll love the dish.
I used my rice to mop up the last of the flavor. Don't wanna miss any.

The prices are solid and the thai as good as anywhere else (and in some cases better), so by all means, stop in for lunch if you're in the area.


snekse said...

We used to love this place. Unfortunately it's gone downhill since the owner stopped being involved in the day-to-day operations. We still go occasionally, but no longer go out of our way for it.

Chamelaeon said...

One of the (non-blogging) friends we eat with a lot mentioned that the owner passed on the torch while back, which made me sad as I would have liked to meet him.

If the food's gone downhill, I'm pretty sure it must have been absolutely incredible back in the day.

Anonymous said...

I think I've been to all the Vietnamese places here in town, and for my money, you can't beat Saigon out on 120th & Center. VAR is decent, but not worth driving to mid-town, in my semi-humble opinion.