Next up on the Vietnamese food tour is Green Papaya. Green Papaya was actually recommended to me when I first moved to Lincoln, but it took me a while to get around to trying it. More recently, I was reminded that I need to go there and try their food when someone told me that they'll serve a whole shrimp (head and all) on one of their soups. That clinched it for me as a must try place.
Green Papaya's menu offers a similar fare to Vung-Tao. There are several Bubble Tea options, banh mi sandwiches, pho, other noodle soups, and rice noodle bowls. There are also other fun drink options like Pennywort Drink, espresso, and ca phe sua da, or espresso coffee with condensed milk. Two of the people I was eating with ordered the espresso and condensed milk, and it looked like fun. You get a little metal container with the grounds and then you pass water through to make your own espresso at the table.
I got the Taro bubble tea. I had sweet potato bubble tea in Korea and thought it was one of best bubble tea flavors I'd found. I had heard that taro is supposedly the same thing; but, Taro was a little sweeter, almost marshmallow like, than sweet potato. Even though it wasn't quite what I thought it would be, I still loved it. The bubbles weren't at all stale and were squishy and chewy like they should be.
For an entree, I should have made it a fair comparison to Vung-Tao by getting Green Papaya's pho. But, I was more in a seafood mood, so I went with the Special Rice Noodles with Crab, Shrimp, and Pork. It was fantastic. The broth was the rich, velvety quality you want from good stock, and the crab gave it a faint sweetness. The meat was tasty, the shrimp really good (although there were only a few), and the crab (although imitation) a great vehicle for soaking up broth.
Dennis tried the Grilled Chicken with Egg Rolls bowl. The egg rolls were unique with a hint of cinnamon and spice, and the chicken had a great flavor, but was a little dry. I don't think he was that blown away, but his issues were what my issues with rice noodle bowls are. They sound good, but are just kind of bland. It is the only Vietnamese dish that I've come across that doesn't excite me. I think it is because my noodle dishes from Asian restaurants usually have such full sauces, that rice noodle bowls just seem kind of straight forward in comparison; Plus, I also end up comparing it with all the flavor and nuance that you find in pho, which I will chose over rice noodle bowls any day.
Between the tastier soup and fresher bubble tea, Green Papaya made a better impression.