Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Zasian pho cu 2

Z Aisan Vietnamese Kitchen is one of the latest to join the Mills 50 lineup of eateries in what is historically the center of the city’s Asian community. For a long time, each new Vietnamese restaurant that opened in the area seemed no different than those that had come before. The menus were the same, which is to say voluminous and repetitive, and even the decors seemed cookie cutter and stereotypical.

But that’s started to change in the past few years. Menus are more thoughtful and aren’t intent on presenting every possible combination of ingredients. And even the restaurants themselves seem more modern and up to date.

One restaurant that I thought did a nice job of modernizing the Vietnamese dining experience was Mai Bistro, which opened in late 2017 and unfortunately closed in early 2018.

Now Z Asian has moved into the same space and it, too, offers a more modernistic approach to the Vietnamese dining experience while still paying homage to the traditional recipes.

Le House

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Le House interior

The owners of a new Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Orlando named it Le House because they wanted customers to feel as if they were dining at their home. I can’t attest to that authenticity, but I can say that I certainly felt welcomed and accommodated on my visit, even if I wasn’t offered the guest room.

The menu here is more succinct than at other Vietnamese restaurants. Pho is available, as it must be at all local Vietnamese restaurants, apparently by law. But Le House’s menu has a manageable 10 entries instead of the three or four dozen you might be asked to negotiate elsewhere.

But pho is not a specialty of Le House. The young man who greeted me — welcomed me into his home, as it were — suggested two items under the Specialty banner: Nem Cuòn, a springlike roll with cured fermented pork; and Com Gà, or organic chicken.

The Nem was a must, I decided, but instead of the entree version, which comes as a build-it-yourself kit of ingredients, I opted for the no-assembly-required appetizer variety.

Blended Cafe Bar

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Blended interior

Blended Cafe Bar is an intimate little eatery in a massively large space. It’s funny, Juliana’s Fine Tuscan Cuisine, which held this space previously, never struck me as occupying an airplane hangar-sized room. Perhaps the owners plan on holding line-dancing lessons or renting the extra space out for corporate meetings.

It’s distractingly large is what I’m trying to say.

Blended bench

But it’s bright and tidy —though oddly there’s a plastic carpet protector on the bench that serves as a banquette along the wall — and there’s no reason you can’t have a private conversation without being overheard by the people at the next table, which may or may not be in a different zip code.

Four Guys Pho

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Four Guys pho

I don’t supposed it’s absolutely necessary to know who the four guys of Four Guys Pho in Casselberry are but it does beg the question. Though as far as I know, no one loses any sleep over not knowing who the five guys of Five Guys Burgers are. (They are the Murrell brothers from Washington, D.C., though the fifth one wasn’t born yet when his older brothers started the business, posing another question that will go begging for now.)

The website for Four Guys Pho says that the Vietnamese restaurant is also the project of brothers, though no names are offered. And when I called the restaurant to ask, the gentleman who answered the phone said that if I wanted to know their names I would have to come to the restaurant because he wasn’t authorized to give that information out over the phone.

Maybe it should be called the Soup of the Secretive Siblings.

Whatever. The food, especially the pho, was quite good when I visited recently.

Mai Bistro

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mai sticky

Mai Bistro, a Vietnamese restaurant, has opened in the Mills 50 district, bringing a bit of difference to the Asian-restaurant-rich neighborhood. Not only different, but very good.

The menu features street foods of Vietnam -- nothing new there, Hawkers and Mamak are also in the street food business. But Mai brings a combination of fast- and quick-serve. And instead of the small-plate, Asian-style tapas servings, Mai Bistro offers full sized portions.

You’re going to want a complete serving of the Sticky Rice, one of Mai Bistro’s specialties and a dish that is surprisingly hard to find locally. (A new restaurant called Sticky Rice is due to open soon in the same area, so maybe we’ll have more opportunities.)

I love sticky rice and it’s one of my go-to street foods whenever I’m in New York’s Chinatown. In Vietnam, it’s known as xôi and can be had in sweet or savory versions, though given that coconut milk is one of the ingredients that adds to the stickiness even the savory has a bit of sweetness.

Pho 4 U

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Pho4u pho cu

I've never quite had a challenge like the one I faced with the noodles at Pho 4 U, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Longwood apparently aimed at the texting segment.

There was something immediately recognizable as different with the noodles in my pho -- number 41 on the menu, with eye round steak, flank and meatball chunks. They were flatter and wider than the noodles you usually see, more like fettuccine than the usual vermicelli-like noodles. And they were quite unchopstickable.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Vietnomz sign

Let me just put this right out there at the beginning: Viet-Nomz might just be serving the best Vietnamese food in the area. Those of you who know me know that I don’t make such statements lightly.

I put off visiting this small, fast-casual restaurant for a long time because too many other businesses in this spot opened and closed too quickly. I didn’t hold up much hope for another newcomer, especially one with such a cutesy name. But after six months of seeing more cars in front than I ever did for any of the other restaurants that have occupied the University Boulevard space, I decided to pull over and try it myself.

Pho & Roll

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Pho and Roll cu pho

I popped in to check out Pho & Roll, which recently replaced Pho Curry Ford (and whose name, as Faiyaz of the Orlando Weekly pointed out, was a bit dirty sounding if you pronounced pho correctly).

The menu for Pho & Roll says that it is “Vietnamese food with a modern twist.” Don’t know what that twist might be, except to offer fewer options than the older, more traditional Vietnamese restaurants in the area. And I don’t count that as a negative.

Saigon Noodle & Grill Bumby

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Saigon Noodle Bumby vermicelli 2

Saigon Noodle & Grill has taken over the space on Bumby Avenue that for a short time was Pho K5 and for a very long time Medina’s Market and Cafe.

This is a second location for SN&G. We visited the original, on Goldenrod Road last year as a suggestion for celebrating the Lunar New Year. This year Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 8, signaling the Year of the Monkey, which is just perfect for this particular election year. You may want to consider the new Saigon Noodle & Grill for your celebration again this year, but you might not want to wait two weeks to go.

Da Vi Vietnamese Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Da Vi Interior

The Mills 50 district, which has historically been home to a majority of Vietnamese restaurants, so much so that it was once known colloquially as Little Saigon, has a new outlet for pho, rice platters and other Southeast Asia specialties. It’s called Da Vi, and it opened on Colonial Drive in mid November.

As compared to other Vietnamese restaurants in the neighborhood, including the one called Little Saigon, one of the oldest in the area, Da Vi is smaller, both in size and in menu. I see that as a plus — too many of the Viet restaurant menus are multipage tomes with over 100 items, most just mathematical variations on the same ingredients.

Da Vi’s menu tops out at 41 items, including appetizers, vermicelli and rice platters, phos and House Specialties. I’m usually drawn to consider whatever a restaurant touts as a speciality, but when I asked my server if I should be looking at that list — which had such things as Purple Glazed Squid, Clay Pot Fish, and even something called the Little Saigon Seafood — or at the pho offerings, he steered me to the latter.