Since I wait at least four to six weeks to review a new restaurant, I thought it a good idea to revisit Le Viet. I was most impressed with my dinner three years ago served in lovely surroundings by a knowledgeable staff.
Le Viet now has a liquor license and offers specials at moderate prices. It also features a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m and a creative list of cocktails. Wines are a bargain at $6 to $8 a glass.
The décor is sleek and modern with black leather booths, banquettes, soft lighting and large glass vases filled with fresh flowers. The music playing on the sound system provided the right background for patrons. Edward and I could actually enjoy our conversation.
We began our dinner with summer rolls ($3) and a crispy crepe filled with shrimp and vegetables ($9.95). Summer rolls are eye-appealing as you can see the shrimp and basil through the rice paper wrapper. We received two plump rolls layered with cool vermicelli, thinly sliced pork, fresh, fragrant basil and perfectly cooked shrimp. The rice paper wrapper had a fine texture as it was not-at-all gluey or gummy. A small mound of julienned pickled carrots and turnips were placed on the plate along with a ramekin of peanut sauce.
The crepe symbolizes the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine. Le Viet’s version topped any crepe I’ve sampled in Vietnamese restaurants.
Medium-sized shrimp were married with bean sprouts and shredded vegetables and placed inside a light-as-a-feather, thin crepe. The finished dish was crisped in a hot pan and served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. We cut the offering into wedges and found it perfectly seasoned. Leaves of green leaf lettuce, fresh mint, purple basil and pickled carrots and turnips made it a complete dish. You can place the crepe inside a lettuce leaf and top it with mint or basil or just enjoy the vegetables topped with sauce.
Since I loved the pho on my first visit, I wanted to sample another soup. I can eat soup on a brutally hot, sultry summer evening because I am and always will be a soup girl. Roasted pork wonton soup ($7.95) was one of the specials. It was large enough for two.
A large, white bowl was filled with a rich, homemade chicken stock, a tangle of thin egg noodles, thinly-sliced scallions, a green vegetable that I call the Asian version of rapini, slices of slightly sweet boneless pork and plump wontons filled with minced pork and shrimp. If I could give an award for wontons, Le Viet easily wins. The wrapper was thin and translucent, but kept its shape as I bit into it. Sometimes the pork and shrimp are overcooked and turn to mush. These little packages retained a fine texture.
We sipped a glass of Fetzer Gewurz-traminer ($7) that was a little sweet but paired nicely with the slightly spicy food.
I also wanted to try one of the clay pot dishes because braised meats are among my favorites. After some deliberation, we decided on the spare ribs ($12.95). The bone-in ribs were sliced into 1-inch pieces and marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, honey, sliced onions and spices. Bones add flavor to the final dish, so I did not mind cutting the pork off for easy enjoyment with my chopsticks. The salty-and-sweet combination can be risky, but the chefs achieved a fine balance.
The fine staff at Le Viet cares for its guests, answer questions and makes recommendations. I know why Le Viet remains my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the city. Modern surroundings, fresh ingredients, an affordable cocktail and wine list and a moderately priced menu that is not too large and carefully planned are the reasons I would return again and again.
Four tips of the toque to Le Viet.
1019 S. 11th St.
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