Restaurant Review

I love Vietnamese fresh spring rolls.  I can’t get enough of them.  You can get them at pretty much any Vietnamese restaurant in town, but they aren’t all created equal.  If you’re not familiar with the fresh spring roll (or G?i cu?n if you’re all fancy with foreign words), you’re missing out.  They are made up of pork, prawn, rice noodles, wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper (a strangely stretchy substance).  They are usually served with a peanut sauce, and they are good.    My favorites are made at Vien Dong – they have the right combination of noodles and bean sprouts.  The bean sprouts offer some crunch and lightness that is often overlooked by lesser spring roll makers.  And I like their dipping sauce.  Vien Dong (3801 S Yakima) is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant – I’ve been going there for nearly 20 years.  The first meal I brought to my wife at the hospital after she cranked out our firstborn was spring rolls from Vien Dong.  Kevin and Lynn, who serve the tables, are lovely folks – it has been fun to watch their kids grow from toddlers to adults over the years.  Mom and Dad are typically running the kitchen, and when the kids aren’t off at orchestra camp and what not, they help with table service too.  And Vien Dong does something with pork chops that is heavenly.  I like their Pho too, but the ranking of Tacoma pho restaurants is the work of another review (I am mocked by my Vietnamese friends for my unsophisticated pho palate).  And, while I do like Vien Dong, the Lincoln district isn’t the only spot in town with good spring rolls.  My backup location is Fresh Rolls in Downtown Tacoma (823 Pacific Ave).  They are a chain, and have quite a few menu items, but I’ve only tried their take out spring rolls.  They have a refrigerator case and I can be in and out in a jiffy.  They have a nice vegetable to rice noodle ratio (good crunch), and it makes a quick and relatively healthy meal.  I’ve made my own over the years – they always seem like they should just take a minute to put together, but that is never the case.  It is fun work though – a good activity to do together when friends come over for dinner.    You can substitute tofu for the meats, which I appreciated in my vegetarian years.  I still order them that way now – I do like tofu.  And, like pizza and Mexican food, even mediocre fresh spring rolls are still totally worth eating – so I order them any time I’m trying a new Vietnamese restaurant – you can’t go wrong.  But the good ones are worth the effort of tracking down.

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