I am very sad to report that this restaurant had a pretty bad fire in February. I am not sure if they will re-open.
153 N. Cleveland Street
After taking the monkeys (Satchel, 8, and Jiro, 6) to see Karate Kid at Studio on the Square, Warren and I were in the mood for Chinese food. Since we don't really have a Chinese place we love, we ended up trying the somewhat newly opened Vietnamese Bistro on Cleveland. Warren was initially hesitant believing it to be sketchy, but agreed to a drive by.
It looked fine once we got there so we went right in. I was pleasantly surprised by the bright and cheery decor. It definitely seemed much cleaner and nicer than the former Thai restaurant that occupied the space in the 90s.
There weren't many people dining--they had one or two full tables. Warren recognized the waiters from the Viet Hoa market across the street, and that put him at ease. We sat at a booth near the flatscreen TV which was showing Men in Black. Warren pointed out the Karate Kid's real dad, Will Smith, much to the monkeys' delight.
Jiro was cranky and hungry, but smiled for me when I pulled out the camera.
Satchel was intent on driving me nuts by playing with everything on the table and running his hands over the blinds to make an annoying sound.
Our very nice (cute, young, and tattooed) waiter brought water and menus right over. The menu was very extensive and had lots of pictures. We had a brief discussion about whether they had bubble tea (they didn't) before figuring out what to order. Satchel immediately found what he wanted based on a photo (sorry, I forget the name), Warren went for his usual vermicelli with pork and egg roll, and Jiro refused to say what he wanted so I informed him that he would be getting chicken wings.
I was immediately drawn to the salad/goi section that featured both green papaya salad with shrimp & pork and a rare beef salad marinated in lime sauce. There's a green papaya salad I really like at Thai restaurants and beef salad is something I cannot resist. I asked the nice (cute, young, and tattooed) waiter what was better, beef or papaya, and he responded, "Lotus roots," referring to the lotus roots with shrimp and pork, also on the salad menu. "I don't think I'm ready for lotus roots," I replied and ordered the beef salad.
When Satchel told the nice (cute, young, and tattooed) waiter what he wanted, the nice (cute, young, and tattooed) waiter looked at me and said, "That's probably too big of a portion for him." I assured him that the dish would not go to waste.
A few minutes later, both Satchel and Warren had their dinners. Satchel immediately looked at his and said, quite sadly, "I thought the noodles would be cooked." We reminded him how he loves to eat raw Ramen noodles and encouraged him to try the dish.
As you can see in the above photo, Satchel was jealously eyeing Warren's vermicelli as he nibbled his crunchy noodles.
Luckily for Satchel, Warren seemed to also have his eye on Satchel's plate.
A few moments later, they agreed to switch, and then they both happily slurped down their dinners as Jiro and I did our best to patiently wait for our food.
A few minutes later, Jiro's chicken wings and my beef salad came out. I really liked the way they presented everything--much fancier than usual.
The nice (cute, young, and tattooed) waiter explained that I should pile my salad on the crackers to eat it, so I did. It was SO good. The beef was cooked in the lime juice like ceviche, so it hardly looked like beef at all, but tasted great. I was in heaven. And I probably should have saved half for later, but I ended up eating the whole thing because it was so so good! I did share a few crackers with the kids, though.
In fact, everyone ate everything. It might be the first time we've never had any leftovers! While everyone finished up, I decided to check on the bathrooms. The women's was very nice, and Fung Shei-y. (No changing table though.)
Our total bill came to $37.58 which is definitely higher than usual--the dishes are priced a little higher than say Saigon Le--but since we loved (and ate) everything there were no complaints from me. The nice (cute, young, and tattooed) waiter informed us that they deliver and was very chatty as we settled up.
On our way out we stopped to admire the fish tank. One "mohawked" fish in particular caught our eye, so we watched him for a good 5 minutes. Next time we'll probably sit next to the tank rather than the TV. I might even try the lotus roots.