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.
So I went with the one that got me a bit of everything (number 13 on the menu), with eye round steak, well-done flank, fat brisket, soft tendon, tripe, and beef meat balls.
But first I ordered an appetizer of Vietnamese Spring Rolls with charbroiled pork. I was surprised at how long it took for the rolls to be delivered. In many restaurants, these things are made well in advance and are slapped in front of a guest before one can say goi cuon. Could it be that Da Vi makes its spring rolls to order? Possibly, the pork had a certain just-grilled warmth to it (along with a delightful bit of greasy taste) and the noodles, lettuce and bits of cucumber inside the translucent wrapper were loosely rolled instead of hard-packed. I tried dipping them in both the fish sauce and peanut sauce and preferred the latter, which was more peanut-buttery, chunky style, no less, than others I’ve had.
There was nothing extraordinary about the pho. It was a basic beef broth with lots of thin rice noodles, the aforementioned meats, and the usual accouterments of bean sprouts, jalapeno slice, lime wedge, and fresh basil leaves for you to shred and add as desired. The flank steak was a bit dry, but I liked the chewy tendon, and I could have used a bit more tripe.
Da Vi occupies the ground floor of a two-story office-like building, though there is another restaurant, Bikkuri, upstairs. The small space is nicely appointed with wood tones, including a wall of horizontal planks with a variety of stains, and a ceramic tile floor that mimics a herringbone wood pattern. A banquette along one wall features blue neon accent lighting at knee level, and there is a bar for those who wish to eat alone or communally. It’s a pleasant space, even though the televisions are impossible to avoid.
Da Vi is at 1915 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. The website has precious little information on it — it doesn’t even say when the restaurant is open, which is for lunch and dinner daily — but it does have the menu with prices, which range from $8 to $16. The phone number is 407-613-5877.