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The Vietnam Grille is an unassuming little restaurant on South Bvld. On my first visit there I walked into a crowded restaurant even on a Sunday night. The second visit was on a Friday night and it was equally as crowded. The restaurant is not very big but it still says something to find it full. I have to admit that I have an obsession with fresh rolls, summer rolls, basil rolls, etc. They are known by various names in different restaurants and cuisines. Basically most fresh rolls are wrapped in rice paper and filled with goodies, usually shrimp or tofu, lettuce, beans, vermicelli, among other things. I, of course, had to order some. The Vietnam Grille has the option of either preparing them for you or letting you make them on your own at the table. I have never done this before so it was something that I just had to try. The waitress brought out a bowl of warm water, along with the rice paper, and a plate of tofu, lettuce, parsley, bean sprouts, and peanut sauce. She kindly asked whether I knew what to do. Upon seeing the clueless look on my face she proceeded to show me the steps. First the rice paper is dipped in warm water, then it is laid on the plate and filled up with the veggies and your choice of protein. The sides are then folded in and then rolled starting at the bottom. Simple huh? Well my rolls weren’t as pretty as the waitresses but they were still delicious. Did I mention she did all of this with chopsticks? Me? I used my bare hands.
My main dish was Pho. I ordered a sliced flank steak and brisket pho. This dish is called Pho Tai Nam in the menu. My dish came with all the usual sides. Bean sprouts, peppers, basil, lime, onion, scallions. I am not a pho expert but I was satisfied. The meat was tender, the broth was flavorful but I would have preferred a little more spice. The noodles, well, they are noodles. I ate them. They were good. Is it the best I have ever tried? No. Would I eat it again? Yes. It was very satisfying on a cold evening in December.
My foray into Vietnamese food started a couple of years back when a coworker brought in homemade crispy rolls with peanut sauce. So when Ana suggested we try Vietnam Grille for our first blog entry I immediately jumped on that train and agreed to go.
My experience at this restaurant was perhaps a little bit different than hers. I will first start off with commenting on the service. In my opinion it was extremely slow! Granted there were about 5 different other tables being waited on, but it was such a long ordeal to even receive our appetizers. I am not an impatient person but this time I thought the wait we had to go through was unwarranted.
Now on to the food…So for 4 years I had been dreaming of these crispy rolls with peanut sauce that my co-worker introduced me to, and when I saw crispy rolls were on the menu my eyes lit up. I ordered the Cha Gio (Crispy Spring Rolls) which are stuffed with pork, spices, onion, and mushrooms. I have to say that I had high expectations for these rolls and unfortunately they were not met. The rolls were not bad, but they were also very oily and the pork had an aftertaste. The one good part about this dish was the sauce that came with it. It wasn’t peanut sauce but it was a sweet sauce that complemented the crispy rolls well enough. Had I not had amazing crispy rolls before I probably wouldn’t be too critical. If you are a huge crispy roll fan like I am I would suggest to save your stomach space and calories for something else.
I might consider going back to Vietnam Grille to try some other dish as their menu is about 3 pages long. But I will definitely reserve that visit for when I can’t think of another place I am dying to go to!