Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vietnam Cafe

814 South 47th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19143-3613
(215) 729-0260

I have had Vietnam on my list for a long, long time. Unfortunately I am rarely in University City, and so I had not yet ventured to this restaurant. I recently found myself in the area, however, and I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to give it a try. The interior is well decorated, sleek and interesting. As I was in a particularly good mood, I decided to splurge on the $14 "flaming volcano" cocktail. It is well worth the money, as it arrives on fire, and is loaded with liquor. A good start to any weekend dinner.

For an appetizer, felt I had to try the "char grilled pork rolls." I love rice paper, and when it is rolled around char-grilled pork, lettuce, bean sprouts and fresh basil, there is no question it would be good. Well, there was a question, I suppose - I have eaten at some pretty shady Vietnamese restaurants - but this promised to be top notch.

The dipping sauce was made up of some shredded carrots, chili sauce, and ground peanuts in a hoisin-type sauce. The pork was crispy, with char-grilled ends, and when paired with the rich nutty dipping sauce, it was incredible. I think I could have eaten ten of these and gone home happy. But alas, I needed to try some entrees, and so I asked the server what he recommended. He recommended his favorite, the "Saigon noodle." It came out quickly, and was a savory blend of pan-fried soft flat noodles, shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, tender greens, cucumber and crushed peanuts. I was blown away by the taste profile that came from this dish. It was served with a ramekin that had a rice wine vinegar sauce that I drizzled over the plate. I absolutely loved this dish. If there was a take-out place near my house that served this, I would order this on a regular basis. I was surprised with the subtlety that came through the combination of the sauce and the cooking liquid. It was amazing.

My dining partner chose the "shrimp curry." As most curries, it was served with sauteed shrimp with bell pepper, onion, lemon grass and light yellow coconut curry. It was not a spicy curry, but it was rich. I liked the curry, but I was sold on the Saigon noodle.

It had everything I was looking for in a comforting noodle dish. I will be back to Vietnam Cafe, and I can't wait. As an aside, they had the coolest hand dryer in the bathroom I have ever seen. It is made by Dyson, and is like a car-wash air-dryer for your hands. So cool. The air comes out in 400mph sheets. If that isn't reason enough to try this place, I don't know what would be.

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