We just got back from Worcester, Mass., where we had an excellent Vietnamese meal at the Bamboo Hut on 1394 main street. What stood out was the extreme care with which everything was made and presented -- the food was very un-generic. We had salad rolls, fried quail, papaya salad (very fresh and crisp, lots of Asian basil), a grilled beef sandwich, salt and pepper shrimp (light crust, head on, dressed with bird chilies, crushed rock salt, and scallions), non gloppy stir fried lemon grass chicken, and a wonderfully smoky and succulent pork chop, not the dried out shoe leather that many places serve. (All of this -- a hefty dinner for 4, with 2 desserts, came to $56!) It was the equal of m ost good NY vietnamese, and I would not hesitate to compare it even to New Pasteur.
The owner couldn't have been nicer. He warned us coming in that the kitchen was small and that if we were in a rush, we should probably think of having dinenr elsewhere. The result was a leisurely and pleasant dinner, with dishes coming out one or two at a time. The place is the first floor of a house, done in dark drab green stucco, painted bamboo hangings, and lots of plastic plants. It is very charming in a seedy sort of way, sort of like a low class polynesian escapee from an earlier decade. But the food has nothing in common.
A bonus is that next week, they are going to start serving nutria, the water rodent which has taken over Louisiana's bayous. The owner said that he expects that every Vietnamese person in Worcester will be beating down his door, since it is very similar to a delicacy from home. It will be available in a spicy stew, grilled with lemon grass, or roti (sort of lacque with caramel).
Check it out! Well worth a visit if you find yourself in Worcester.