Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vung-Tau Deli

Vung-Tau Deli was the first stop on my Pho tour.  I drive by it all the time on my way to work and with every pass was increasing curious as to what a Vietnamese Deli entailed.  I also saw a sign for Bubble Tea, and I can't pass up a place with Bubble Tea.

I went for lunch on a Wednesday and the place was really well trafficked.  When I mentioned this to the waiter, he said that this was actually a slower day.  The place has about ten tables and those were rarely empty for long; so, if that is a slow day, I can't imagine the turnover of a regular day.

In overhearing the conversations at other tables (yes, I eavesdrop when eating on my own), I heard lots of oohs, aahs, and praises.  One table had three 20-somethings and one of them was orienting the other two on Vietnamese food, bubble tea, and how to eat the noodle bowls.  Another table contained four people visiting from Texas who liked the place so much that they had come two days in a row.

Over all the tables, the most common dish being eaten appeared to be a noodle bowl with pork and slices of small fried egg rolls.  I was going to try a banh mi, but they were out.  So, instead, I got a bowl of pho and a lychee bubble tea.

The lychee part was great; but, the bubbles were a little stale.  The bubbles weren't that jelly, squishy, and chewy texture so essential to bubble tea; instead, they were a little frozen tasting and a little hard.  I do give them props for offering lots of great bubble tea flavors, including durian, which I was a little too scared to try.  I'm working up to trying durian, but it is taking some mental prep.
As for the pho, I also wasn't completely blown away.  They don't offer tofu as a pho option and tofu is my favorite topper; it soaks up all the broth and becomes a little pho flavor explosion when you eat it.  Instead, I got slices of beef, which were good, but just not as fun as tofu.  The broth itself had a nice richness, but was really cinnamon strong.  Instead of a subtle warmth, you got all the aroma and taste of the cinnamon, making the pho a little sweet.

In this experience, I have a pretty strong disjoint between my own impressions and the positive reactions of others.  So, I think it sort of comes down to preference.  The other customers and Urbanspoon reviews give Vung-Tau a lot of high praise.  Plus, the waiter, who must also help run the place, was really friendly and nice.  He knew lots of the people who came in, suggesting that Vung-Tau has a strong following.  I was really impressed by how many names he knew, how often he remembered what they liked to order, and how well he picked up on small clues.  Those qualities alone speak to a restaurant you would like to keep going to. 

As for the food, I think I would go back and try the banh mi or a noodle bowl; but, as a far as the pho, I'd keep looking. 

Vung Tau Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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