The spot at suite C-3 in the Hong Kong City Mall IV in Chinatown has seen numerous concepts come and go in the last few years. Three notable ones come to mind: Banh Cuon Tay Ho, Com Ga Houston, and most recently the popular Vietnamese dessert spot, Bambu. Nothing stuck. It’s been a revolving door.
Well, hopefully that’s about to change. A quick lunch today at the brightly lit, attractively appointed Viet Huong, which advertises “Mon Ngon 3 Mien,” which translated, means "Delicious Vietnamese dishes from the three regions of Vietnam," was very promising. It wasn’t too crowded, but the people who were there — predominantly Vietnamese — seemed to be enjoying what they were eating.
The menu is simple, just an 8 by 11 inch laminated sheet with main dishes on the front, and drinks on the back, everything priced between $5.95 and $7.45. There are exactly 10 dishes on the menu, and it appears to be organized in order of dish popularity. The first item on the menu is Bun Bo Hue ($6.95), a central Vietnamese thick rice vermicelli noodle soup made of pork hock and beef simmered in spices and aromatics. The second menu item is Bun Rieu ($7.45), a rice vermicelli, tomato and crab noodle soup, which hails from North Vietnam. Other common dishes they had were Com Tam Bi Suon Nuong ($6.95), a broken rice dish topped with shredded pork, pork chop and egg pie; and the Bun Thit Nuong ($5.95), a chargrilled pork and rice vermicelli bowl, which I ordered, along with a cup of iced tea, which set me back a whopping $1.00.
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Service was fast and efficient, and within no time, an attractive white octagonal porcelain bowl set in front of me. Julienned cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, bean sprouts and aromatic herbs were arranged in a pleasing arc around the chargrilled pork, which had a smattering of crushed peanuts and green onions on top. I was pleasantly surprised by how appetizing it looked.
Bun Thit Nuong is a simple dish that is easy to get wrong. Sometimes you get meat that’s too lean or tough or flavorless. Sometimes the nuoc mam pha, or mixed fish sauce, is too strong or salty. I am happy to report that Viet Huong got both of these right. The chargrilled pork was tender, with just enough fat clinging to the meat to give it an added depth of flavor. The mixed fish sauce was light and slightly sweet, with small chiles to give the dish a bit of heat. I mixed everything up in my bowl so that I could get a bite of meat, noodle, and vegetables in each bite. It was delicious, and definitely one of the better versions of this dish I've had in a long while.
This is one of those places that's in between fast-casual and full service. The servers take your order at the table, but when you're done, you pay at the counter. As I was standing in line for my meal, I asked a young man who’d just finished his Bun Bo Hue how it was. “It’s pretty good,” he said, with obvious satisfaction. I looked at his bowl and noticed that it was completely empty, and that he’d finished every last drop of his broth - always a good sign. Viet Huong has only been opened for a few weeks, so you wouldn't know about it unless you frequent the mall often. They accept credit cards with a minimum charge, and the staff seemed to take pride in the food that they served. Their faces beamed when I told them I really enjoyed my meal. Hopefully this will be enough to break the curse at spot C-3. I'm already planning a return visit so that I can try that Bun Bo Hue.