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New(?) Vietnamese Place in Portland, Maine

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New(?) Vietnamese Place in Portland, Maine

Sassafras | Aug 28, 2003 12:33 AM

My girlfriend and I have been regular patrons at Huong Vietnamese restuarant on Cumberland St, behind the market since we moved to Portland back in June. We love the place and are close to working our way through their entire menu. Normally I'm quite satisfied having just one good restaurant for each ethinicity that a city is home to, but when a second option shows up, of course a true chowhound has to check it out.

We read in the West End News about another Vietnamese place on St John's Street, across from the strip mall, with the operating name of LH Karaoke Lounge (???), and we stopped by there for lunch today to see if this wacky asian karaoke lounge actually serves Vietnamese food.

The place was wonderful! They have outdoor tables in the back with umbrellas, and hammocks that I'm not certain are for public use but on our next visit I think we'll test the waters. It's a menu even smaller than Huong's with the usual Pho and vermicelli variations but with a few twists.

My first time at any Vietnamese place, it is my imperative to order the straight-up pho as a sort of litmus test. It was outstanding! The base was a fantastic beefy broth, with the aromaitics really standing out more than usual, and for the first time in a long time I actually got TENDON in my pho. (Huong's is really stingy on tendon and tripe, not sure why. I'm about ready to explicilty ask for it at Huong when I order pho, not worried about looking like a freak ("Please, just put the tendon in my soup, really, I like it, honestly. Thanks.") No tripe here in this version at LH Karaoke Lounge, but I can live with that.

Also, the spring roll with pork and shrimp was awesome! It was a little different than any fresh spring roll I've had before. The pork, albeit a little salty, was a bit caramelized and really enhanced the flavor of the roll, and the diping sauce was juiced up with some fish sauce and had a good strong flavor, it wasn't just a sweet peanuty finish to the roll. There were some bold flavors at work at this place.

My girlfriend ordered a pork soup, which she also was very fond of, although she did like the pork in the version at Huong's a little better. Their pork soup is pretty tough to top though.

One thing that I thought particularly thoughtful was that the accompaniments they served with my pho were, aside from bean sprouts, completely different than the ones with her soup. Not just the typical basil/sprout/lime catchall for all soups here. There was some thought put into this. There's some greens I've seen here in Portland that I can't identify, so I'm going to just say that there's a little variety at this fine karaoke lounge.

I'm getting a little too verbose here. If you live in the Portland area and love Vietnamese, definitely check this place out on a hot day, and ask for a seat outside in the back. Order a corona ("colona" on the menu, how cute), gorge on a bowl of pho with all the fixins, and pass out in a hammock.

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