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Le Viet Restaurant & Bar

Sometimes Anglo-friendly Vietnamese food does taste better than the real thing

Then I started to wonder what else the Canadian was right about.


The interior of Le Viet is pleasantly furnished with lacquered wood tables and modern chairs. The floor is ceramic tile and the bar features elegant dark wood paneling. Daily specials advertised throughout the restaurant include discounts on fine wines. (Who drinks Cabernet with Vietnamese food?)

The banh xeo crepe skin isn't a wrapper — it's a stuffing.
Troy Fields
The banh xeo crepe skin isn't a wrapper — it's a stuffing.

Location Info

Map

Le Viet Restaurant & Bar

11328 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77077

Category: Restaurant > Vietnamese

Region: Memorial

Details

Hours: Sundays through Thursdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Crepe: $7

Spring rolls: $2.95

Sizzling beef salad: $7.50

Summer delight salad: $7.50

Shrimp volcano: $10.95

11328 Westheimer, 281-293-8883

On my first visit to Le Viet, I got some food to go. And I found that Le Viet shines at the simple stuff. The spring rolls were made with the usual stuffing of shrimp, sliced pork, vermicelli and herbs, but they were exceptionally fresh-tasting, like they had just been rolled. The summer rolls were even better. Shredded pork was packed around a thick cylinder of fresh green herbs, rolled up in rice paper and served with fish sauce. There was also an autumn roll with beef and a winter roll with tofu.

I also loved the sizzling beef salad, which featured chunks of grilled tenderloin over a salad of lettuce, tomato, red onions and cucumber tossed with a vinaigrette. We also tried the unadorned vermicelli noodles with fried tofu. The noodles were plain, but they came with optional toppings including crushed peanuts, herbs, fresh jalapeño slices and a rice vinegar dressing. If you add all of this stuff to the bowl, the noodles get pretty exciting.

After our banh xeo, we asked the waitress at Le Viet if she could get the chef to make the shrimp curry extra-spicy. "No," she said. If we wanted a hot and spicy shrimp dish, we should order the "shrimp volcano," she told us. So we gave it a try.

The shrimp was overcooked and the lemongrass and chile pepper "volcano sauce" was hopelessly meek. That's the downside of Anglo-friendly Vietnamese food. If you want it spicy, you have to do it yourself with chile oil, hot sauce or fresh peppers.

I added "all of the above" to an order of mi, or curly egg noodles. The noodles usually come in a large bowl with soup and your choice of toppings. I got the traditional topping combination of barbecued pork and wontons, but I asked for the soup on the side. That way the noodles don't get too soft. The best part is you end up with two courses. They put the soup and wontons in a small bowl and the chewy egg noodles and barbecued pork in a larger one.

At $6.50, this bowl of mi is a little more expensive than what you find at the typical Vietnamese noodle house, but there's lots more pork and the meat is unusually lean — just the way Anglos like it. The noodles were tasty, but neither one of us could finish our entrées. We were both too stuffed from eating half of the football-sized Vietnamese crepe.

I don't think I'll stop going to Vietnamese joints in Chinatown anytime soon. But I will henceforward give kinder consideration to Anglo-friendly Asian restaurants and the Canadians who recommend them. Le Viet and Vietnam Coast have a lot going for them.

I wonder what a half a pound of hot pastrami would taste like on a Vietnamese sandwich?

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