Friday, December 14, 2012

Ha Long Bistro in Orlando, FL

I recently met with Traveler Foodie to try a new Vietnamese restaurant on Colonial Drive called Ha Long Bistro. Although there has been Vietnamese restaurants in this location for as long as I can remember, the restaurant has recently gotten new owners and has undergone a name change.

When we first arrived, we tried the Goi cuon (summer rolls) and the Cha gio (crispy spring rolls).
Goi ngo sen tom thit was the next dish I tried. This was a salad consisting of lotus root with shrimp and pork. The lotus was pickled with daikon and carrots, making all the vegetables somewhat soft with a nice pickled flavor. The salad was served with rice crackers on the side.
 The Bo xao luc lac was stir-fried cubed steak in Ha Long's house special wine sauce. The beef was nice and tender and had nice flavor.
The Mì xào giòn (hoặc mềm) thập cẩm consisted of pan fried crispy egg noddles topped with a combination of seafood, beef, and vegetables. This particular dish confused me. Some of the crispy noodles stayed crispy. Others that touched the sauce quickly became soggy. Were the noodles supposed to stay crispy? Were we supposed to mix the noodles with the rest of the dish so they all became soggy? I suppose I don't have enough experience with crispy noodle dishes to really criticize, but nothing was exceptional about the meat (seemed overcooked) and vegetables topping the noodles either.
Phở áp chảo hải sản was described as flat rice noodle with seafood combination. This particular menu description left a lot to be desired. What I would have imagined from reading about this dish was very different from what was served, which in this case was a good thing. The actual dish was much better! The flat rice noodles turned out to be noodles pan fried into a cake topped with egg. This noodle/egg cake was then topped with a mixture of seafood and vegetables. The seafood was tender, the sauce had very nice flavor, and the noodle/egg cakes were completely new to me. I liked!
The Hủ tiếu Nam Vang thập cẩm was a large bowl of soup. The tasty chicken broth was filled with shrimp, thinly sliced pork, crab meat, egg noodles, and assorted vegetables and herbs. A side plate of bean sprouts, cilantro, and jalapenos was served on the side. This soup didn't seem to be anything too different from similar soups that I've had at other nearby restaurants, but that isn't necessary a bad thing. It was tasty and had everything that I would expect from a soup like this.
For a soup that was very different from what I've had at Vietnamese restaurants in the past, we came to the Canh chua cá hoặc tôm. This was a family style sour soup with shrimp. The most apparent ingredient floating in the soup were the quartered tomatoes. Pineapple was also present, but the two ingredients that were very different were elephant ear and rice paddy herb. The elephant ear was a light green sliced vegetable that had the appearance of cucumber and the texture that could somewhat be described as a spongy version of celery. Elephant ear grows in Florida and after living in the state for most of my life, I had no idea that the plants were edible. The rice paddy herb was another new food to me. The plant had an interesting, slightly tart flavor. With all the ingredients put together, I thought this soup was delicious. It had a combination of flavors that were very unique and slightly hard to pinpoint. There was a sour flavor, but I liked it. The pineapple balanced out the sour and rice was served alongside the soup in case the sour flavor was too much. Overall, this was my favorite dish that I tried at Ha Long, not only because of its unique flavors but also because of the education I got on some new types of edible plants!
Cá kho tộ was the Vietnamese braised fish in a clay pot. Technically, the pot was actually cast iron, but lets forget the minor detail. This dish consisted of tender pieces of tilapia in a very tasty sauce.
The Vietnamese Coffee came in a large, ice-filled glass. As someone who rarely drinks coffee, this tasted like coffee with milk to me.
I did enjoy the Jelly Drink. It consisted of shaved ice, coconut milk, strips of green jelly, and kidney beans. Mixed together, this was like a really good version of a snow cone with more interesting ingredients!
I did enjoy my meal at Ha Long Bistro. Most of the food was good and I would gladly return. Although, coming from the perspective of an American who's experience with Vietnamese food comes mostly from the restaurants in the neighborhood surrounding Ha Long Bistro, I didn't notice all too much that separated them from the rest of the pack. We did try some unique foods that were new to me, but I wonder how many other restaurants nearby serve similar dishes that have gone under my radar until now? It isn't necessarily a bad thing that Ha Long Bistro is similar to their neighbors, but as the new restaurant on the block, I wish them the best of luck with all of the competition in the area.

Ha Long Bistro on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

It was a great adventure.

Jimmyhulas said...

food looks very tasty....i will definately came there when i got time from my restaurant(jimmyhulas)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the pictures of the food and review. I enjoy reading your blogs and cannot wait to try this place.


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