In July, Robb Walsh got a huge authentic Vietnamese lunch for only $13 at Pagoda Vietnamese Bistro & Bar (4705 Inker St.). But since Robb last visited, the menu has changed - now it's more tapas-style. So we decided it was time for another visit to figure out what Vietnamese tapas really were.
It was only two of us that night, so we decided to order four small plates - mussels, Vietnamese egg rolls, beef and lamb. Normally, that would be a lot of food for a casual night out, but we figured we were safe with small plates. Wrong! Pagoda's version of a small plate is more like an entree. Don't be fooled by the name. These are just entrees disguised as "tapas."
The good news - the food is still delicious and authentic. Our only complaint was the lemongrass lamb. The fatty lamb, while cooked perfectly, had way too much lemongrass pesto. Instead of tasting delicious lamb, we got a mouthful of tangy lemongrass. The favorite of the evening was the shaking beef bo luc lac. The juicy filet mignon cubes were served over sautéed onions and garlic with a salt, pepper and lime dipping sauce. Next time, we will just order the shaking beef and a side of jasmine rice.
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Pagoda claims to have a new menu, but it still features a lot of the old favorites in supposedly smaller versions. In any regard, it's cheaper, so it seems the new menu is a nod to the recession. We still left stuffed and happy for less than $50. That's not bad for fine-dining Vietnamese.