Guam Diner Bytes: VietBowl Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant
I have to give a nod to MBJ for a small feature on developments in Yigo, with new establishments like Cafe Panadero, KFC, and VietBowl, which really caught my eye since there was a mention of a certain Vietnamese delicacy, Banh Mi (the Vietnamese Sandwich). This French-influenced creation when done right will launch you to a state of culinary nirvana! As I was alone, I could only order a few things (in addition to the Vietnamese Sandwich - $7.00).
These other items would be the Pho Dac Biet (Sliced Beef, Oxtail, Tripe, and Meatballs) for $10.00, and the Chicken Lemongrass ($9.00). I also wanted to have a Vietnamese Iced Coffee ($3.50). Before you get too excited about the prospect of eating, you better check your wallet for cash as they don't have their credit card machine installed (there is an ATM in the Pay-Less down the hall). This is a brand new restaurant, folks, only open for maybe three or four weeks. You will notice on entering that they have a fast food display station - they do serve one and two choice menu items in the morning and for lunch, as well as a la carte (there are 61 items on their menu). Along with some really fabulous Vietnamese artwork featuring people, carvings, and paintings, there are some humorous graphics. The place is brightly lit with ample seating and there is a TV on (that night had "The Voice" on).
I noticed a few tables were just getting some of their dishes and asked to take a few pictures of their dishes. One was the Deep Fried Pork Chops ($9) and another was the Fried Lumpia (five pieces for $8). The servers working that night were very friendly and were eager to take care of me. I think they tag-teamed me to make sure I had what I needed. My LemonGrass Chicken came out first. Wow! This was definitely a plate full of food and more than I'd expected. The sauce was thick and viscuous, with bits of pounded lemongrass and garlic throughout. The yellow onions were sauteed and gave up a sweetness with each bite. I would have this later.
My Banh Mi came out and I felt a surge of excited anticipation when I saw it. The toasted baguette was slit open to reveal a bellyful of every key traditional ingredient that comprises these bad boys - the pate, pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, pork, cucumber slice and mayonnaise. Before slicing my rather large sandwich in half, I had a sip of my Vietnamese Iced Coffee, which was another superbly blended surprise. Someone in that kitchen was getting it right. When I did bite that Banh Mi I was totally engaged in the full gastronomic experience - all my senses were activated as I chewed through the perfectly crisp and doughy baguette, which held its integrity and never crumbled nor got soggy. Another appreciative sip of the coffee...something about how sipping this enhanced the rich and silky taste and flavor of this brewed creamy delight, which iced the coffee without diluting it.
My last dish came out and I watched the big bowl giving up wafts of aromatic steam! I was already succumbing to this soup's allure. It had everything and a lot of it when it came to the beef ingredients. I saw lettuce and bean sprouts but no basil, which I did request. Unfortunately they were running a little low, so I made do with what few sprigs of basil I got. I added some Hoisin sauce, some Sriracha, and some chili paste. I blended it all together and started working on transporting spoonfuls and chopsticks full of food into my mouth. This heady broth was just about where I needed it (I do like a lot of basil).
Of course I couldn't eat all of this after devouring my Banh Mi! I had the soup and Lemongrass Chicken packed to go. I did spend time talking to the owner, Hung Van Vo, who has been in the catering trade here for over 20 years. He had operated the little cafe on the GCC campus for a long time. He told me he liked to cook for his own tastes, so his food is prepared for his own pleasure and satisfaction. I like to tell chefs to taste their food before serving it to customers. That way they should be able to ascertain if the food tastes good enough to serve or if it needs a little enhancement.
I think Mr. Vo will do just fine. He is giving himself a day off on Mondays and is not opening too early for breakfast. He has a manageable menu and already has a few regular customers. I will definitely make it a point to drive all the way up to Yigo to try some of Mr. Vo's other dishes. If you are in the vicinity, I suggest you try it too!
Ken The Guam Food Guy