Price Range: $5 – 11
My friend A and I don’t usually come to this part of downtown because it’s far from the prettier, tourist areas near the lake. However, we heard that Dong Nai Restaurant had good food for cheap prices so we decided to go for dinner.
The outside of Dong Nai looks like a house that has been converted into a restaurant, much like other restaurants on this street.
Walking in, we were greeted by a nice Chinese lady, who was the owner of the restaurant, and we were led to our seats. The atmosphere was cozy, with classical paintings on the walls and everything looked quite clean. I ordered the Bun cha gio thit nuong #16 ($6.75) which was grilled pork and spring roll on top of a lettuce salad and vermicelli and my friend ordered the Pho dac biet #8 (Large $7.75).
Both orders came within 5 minutes, so service was quick. A’s Pho dac biet looked really good and I thought the soup base was very tasty. It was a little oily, probably from the beef, but it tasted like good chicken soup that didn’t have too much of a strong herb taste, exactly the way I enjoyed it. Overall, very good balance of flavors. Unfortunately, the beef was a little too chewy and thickly sliced.
The Bun cha gio thit nuong that I ordered was also quite good but I found that there was too much vermicelli. It was like 75% vermicelli and 25% other stuff. There wasn’t that much pork, but I thought the few pieces tasted good, especially with the ground peanuts and fish sauce (which tasted kind of minty). There was also a spring roll with ground beef and carrots inside it. I didn’t really like the spring roll because it was deep fried too much and rice paper was used instead of the standard spring roll pastry wrap. Underneath that, there was a salad with raw lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and bean spouts (not steamed, as the menu indicates).
Personally, I think the pho tasted much better because I had to start adding lots of hoisin sauce near the bottom of my bowl since the vermicelli had no flavor.
Even though this is not a real Vietnamese restaurant, I thought it was a quiet and cozy environment for university students to catch up over a cheap Sunday dinner. All the portions were extremely filling for a great price!
Akira Stephanie Zhou