Restaurants & Bars 3

Pasteur

mekons | May 20, 2003 06:49 AM

I hope I am not belaboring the obvious.

I am a Vietnamese food freak. I discovered it in 1979 while working in DC and staying in Falls Church. I walked by a former diner and saw these beautiful Viet women inside, gracefully serving dishes that looked wonderful. Turned out, when I spoke with them, that they were the wife and daughters of some horrid fascist Viet colonel, but nevermind. They were delightful and the food better. The eggrolls were long and thin and bursting with flavor and cilantro, which I was not familiar with, was in everything. I ended up going back every day for two weeks and eating everything on the menu. The place is no longer there. I am told the colonel got caught in some heroin deal and was kicked out of the country.

Anyway, that brings me to Pasteur. Wait, not yet. The best Viet restaurant in the country is Kimson in Houston. And the late, lamented Pho Bhang in NYC, on Mott near Canal. It burned down, then never got its customers back, then burned again (hmmmmm). Pho Bangh was what the Vietnamese call an appetizer house. It had some main dishes, but its real niche was the grilled pork, beef, and chicken, along with the mini eggrolls, that most Viet restaurants offer. You roll them up with noodles, veggies, peppers, and various sauces, in lettuce, then chow down. Drool.

But I love Pasteur. Their Pho is terrible, so skip it. Pho is a comfort food, best served in huge bowls with piles of lime and basil and jalapenos and bean sprouts. And it needs the mix of raw beef, well cooked brisket, and tendon. The little cup at Pasteur is a joke.

Skip the appetizers. They are mediocre. Head straight for the duck and the calamari.

The duck is a boneless filet, moist, bursting with flavor, drizzled in a delightful soy based sauce. Nonessential fat has been removed, and it just melts in your mouth. The best duck I have ever tasted. Bar none.

The calamari might be better. Lightly dusted in flour and soaked in fish sauce, then quickly sauteed, it is neither as chewy as, say, greek versions, nor as flavorless as most italian versions. It's a unique dish, enough so that I have ordered it as an appetizer for groups.

The bar/waiting area is wonderful. Deep soft couches, a fire in winter, delightful waitresses. It makes waiting for a table a joy. This is a great place for a first date. Arrive an hour early and enjoy a martini, chat, and enjoy the ambiance. During the summer, they throw open the doors to outdoor tables. Frankly, I think eating outdoors is overrated, but at least in this block, you don't have people ogling your food.

I don't have the address off the top of my head, but it is in the upper Broadway area. Entrees are about $12 to $18, and again, ordering the calamari as an appetizer is a great bet. The real appetizers are no great shakes.

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