4139 Canal St., 482-6266
If atypical, more upscale, contemporary Vietnamese-fusion fare is your thing, then Café Minh is your place. Located in Mid-City, this modern, stylish and comfortable restaurant is owned by chef Minh Bui, who has crafted an eclectic Asian-inspired menu that showcases Vietnamese flavors and ingredients, but with a distinct twist. Uniquely delicious dishes include the delicate and flaky barbecued catfish served with steamed vegetables and jasmine rice; Café Minh’s shrimp wrapped in egg noodle then flash-fried and served with sesame-chile sauce; and smoked, lacquered duck flavored with Oriental five-spice and served with mung bean sticky rice and natural au jus. For satisfying, flavorful soup options, try Minh’s bouillabaisse (poached mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish with angel hair pasta in a light seafood saffron broth); Chef Soup (shrimp, scallops roasted pork, wontons, veggies and fresh egg noodles in a savory broth); and spicy beef udon soup.
Doson Noodle House
135 N. Carrollton Ave., 309-7286
Nestled near one of the busiest intersections in town, at Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue, this simple eatery features “authentic Vietnamese delicacies.” Whet your appetite with an order of satisfying spring or summer rolls or opt for the tender, tasty steamed dumplings. Sure to please are soups like the Triple Delight, a delectable medley of shrimp, beef and white chicken meat in a delicate broth with veggies and a touch of lemongrass, or the scrumptious beef noodle bowl. Other winning dishes include the heavenly Bun Thit, slightly charred bits of grilled pork over vermicelli noodles; Tom Rang Cam, sweet and savory orange shrimp; and Ga Xao Rau, chicken and vegetables served in a spicy garlic sauce. There are also several enjoyable vegetarian selections as well, such as Canh Rau, a flavorful vegetable soup, and Rau Xao Doson, a mélange of seasonal fresh Vietnamese greens delicately sautéed and perfectly seasoned.
3400 Cleary Ave., Metairie, 888-9600
Don’t let the name fool you! No ice cream or burgers are sold here like the name might imply. Instead this intimate café and bubble house offers some of the freshest, tastiest Vietnamese food around. I love the Vietnamese sandwich, a mouthwatering combo of Chinese barbecued pork dressed with pickled carrots, cucumbers and fresh cilantro on French bread, and the Siagon salad, a masterful blend of tender shrimp mixed with julienned carrots, shredded cabbage and a zesty wine-vinegar-based house dressing. Soups are served piping hot in gigantic bowls large enough for two. Particularly good are the Pho Tai Nam Bo Vien, a beef-based soup with rice noodles, thinly sliced pieces of eye of round and beef meatballs topped with cilantro and shallots, and the Pho Ga, the chicken version made with chunks of breast meat, rice noodles, shallots and cilantro. Also quite tasty is the Bun Cha Gio, a generous bowl filled with rice vermicelli noodles, pieces of fried egg roll, shredded lettuce, diced cucumbers and pickled carrots served with a sweet-salty, sour-spicy Nuoc Cham sauce.
349 Whitney Ave., Gretna, 366-2489
This rather nondescript Westbank restaurant offers consistently solid, familiar Chinese and Vietnamese favorites (portions are liberal and prices quite reasonable) in a casual, comfortable setting. Soups, like Kim Son’s version of Vietnamese hot and sour, a distinctive tangy and spicy rendition of the Chinese standard, are always a hit. Filled with fresh vegetables and shrimp, beef or pork and served with a creamy peanut sauce, summer rolls are a great way to start. The chicken salad perfectly juxtaposes tender morsels of chicken breast atop shredded cabbage in a light vinegary dressing drizzled with crispy fried-onion bits. You can’t go wrong with the tried-and-true noodle bowls and vermicelli dishes, like the delectable charcoal-broiled shrimp and the scrumptious pork selections. Moist and succulent, the salt-baked scallops with onions and cracked black pepper are a must (the squid and shrimp versions are quite delicious, too!).
1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665
With a menu the size of a novel, deciding on what to order is quite a challenge, but it’s hard to go wrong here. Heaping portions of classically prepared Vietnamese dishes have made this a local favorite for years. A must-have is one of the house specialties, the Vietnamese crepe, a delicate, slightly crisped, pan-fried rice-flour crepe filled with tender slices of pork, plump shrimp, bean sprouts, onions and fresh mint leaves. Pure bliss! Other standout dishes include the grilled pork rolls with vermicelli and fresh veggies; the seafood delight salad (mouthwatering nibbles of squid, shrimp, jellyfish and scallops with thin slices of celery and cucumber tossed in a tangy, vinegar-based dressing and sprinkled with crunchy roasted onion bits) and the house hot pot (a savory blend of shellfish, thin strips of flank steak, vermicelli noodles and assorted vegetables stewed in a divinely seasoned house broth). If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the Lau Luon Chua, eel and banana-blossom stew in hot and sour broth with lemongrass, or the curried goat.
Pho Tao Bay
113 Westbank Expy., Suite 3, Gretna, 368-9846
A short jaunt across the bridge is all it will take to satisfy your craving for generous portions of authentically prepared Vietnamese cuisine. Steaming bowls of delicious soups and noodle bowls, such as Bun Bo Hue, a hot and spicy fish stock–based soup with pieces of pork and beef and large rice noodles, and PTB Wonton, the chef’s specialty, a flavor-packed broth with pork and shrimp wontons, continue to satisfy. For something on the hearty side, don’t miss the Bo Kho, a Vietnamese-style spicy beef stew made with fall-apart chunks of marinated beef and tender carrots served with rich or clear glass noodles. In addition to classic vermicelli salad bowls and rice platters, Pho Tao Bay boasts an extensive selection of Vietnamese po’boys, including several savory options with char-grilled chicken, shredded pork, barbecued pork meatballs and the chef’s special, chicken liver sausage, all dressed with homemade mayo, Chinese radishes, carrots cucumbers and hot (!!!) peppers that are sure to enliven your palate.