My wife and I had an Asian weekend, venturing into Chinatown twice. First we visited Vietnam for our first go of Vietnamese food (yes, I'll admit it, we were virgins!). Unfortunately, I must also admit that, on the whole, we were somewhat disappointed. The Pho we had as appetizers was outstanding though. My spicy Pho in a thick, peanut-like gravy was delicious. I had the BBQ platter (a sampling of appetizers) for my entree and it was OK. My wife's Chicken Basil, on the other hand, was no better than typical Chinese takeout. While we obviously didn't sample that much, I don't think we'll rush back (except for the Pho perhaps).
Penang, on the other hand, was excellent. My wife's Roti appetizer was excellent as were my fried pork rolls. My green curry chicken casserole (more like a big bowl of stew) was excellent. Fresh string peas, carrot, tomato in a spicy broth that tasted of curry, ginger and cilantro. That was the biggest difference we noticed between the two restaurants-Penang used very high quality and very fresh ingredients while Vietnam seemed to rely on very typical ones that didn't taste that fresh at all. We can't wait to go back to Penang to sample more!
Both nights we skipped dessert and walked to Ray's Cafe and Tea House at 9th and Race. Excellent coffee made using a special siphoning technique. Expensive, but worth it. They have merged with a French bakery nearby and also offer delicious desserts (try the rasberry Napoleon).
BTW, I also stopped in to Indonesia and picked up a menu. It's a lovely, quiet restaurant with a very interesting looking menu. All in all, we had a very enjoyable time getting to know Chinatown, a place where we have spent too little time. We did enough chowing to last us a week! David