My boyfriend, a friend, and I ate dinner at Le Colonial yesterday after Cirque du Soleil. The fusion Vietnamese restaurant is off Union Square, located in a small alley. The building is quite attractive, with a beautiful outside area perfect for drinks on a nice day, and soft, subdued lighting inside with wicker and rattan. Unfortunately it was 8pm and raining heavily so the mood was a bit down for us, and the restaurant a bit on the empty side.
The menu is much less Vietnamese than most other pseudo-Vietnamese places I've eaten at (Tamarine, Three Seasons, Crustacean, Than Long, Slanted Door), though the names of the dishes were all in Vietnamese (though my bf, who's Vietnamese, grumbled at their lack of the accent marks in the dish names). Many of the dishes seemed pretty interesting on the menu, and after much perusing in the end we had:
* Cha Gio - Crispy spring rolls with shrimp, chicken, crab, and woodear mushrooms served with table salad and Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, $11. Six tiny spring rolls were fried slightly on the hard side, but still pretty good. The fillings were good and moist, though could not taste the individual ingredients (except the mushrooms), and the dipping sauce was weaker than at most Vietnamese restaurants. Rating: B
* Cha Cua - Crispy coconut crusted Dungenous crab cakes with cilantro-chili sauce, $12. The six tiny crab cakes were meaty, moist and definitely crabby, and the green cilantro sauce was a delicious complement but the chili portion seemed to be missing. It was served with some snow pea sprouts. Rating: B+
* Ca Hap La Chuoi - Steamed seabass in banana leaves with tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, ginger, scallions and glass noodles, $27. We were told that this was the signature dish of the restaurant and so had to try it. The sea bass was deliciously flaky and moist with a nice but not overpowering fish sauce taste permeating that and the accompanying noodles. I thought this dish was definitely a keeper. Rating: A
* Dau Dua - French baby green beans wok fried with shiitake mushrooms, garli-soy sauce and toasted peanuts, $9. The beans were very crispy and just on the edge of being cooked, and matched well with the flavorful glaze and the softness of the tiny shiitake pieces. Rating: A-
* Com Nep La Chuoi - Steamed sticky rice with mung beans, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and coconut curry sauce, $9. The sticky rice was cooked fine but the curry was rather light and I thought this dish needed a bit more oomph. Rating: B-.
* Com Trang - Steamed jasmine rice with scallion-ginger oil, $2. The oil added a nice fragrance and pleasant light taste to the rice, but we found occasional hard pieces in it, which is a bit silly for a restaurant of this caliber. Rating: B-
Overall, I liked the ambiance and food here but am not sure I would go again. My boyfriend quite disliked it because it was so un-Vietnamese for a Vietnamese restaurant, and proclaimed all the dishes to be too bland. I agree that they're not as strong tasting as traditional Vietnamese food, but I don't think this restaurant is advertising itself as such and is a good choice for those not looking for authenticity but rather for decent Asian fusion food in an elegant, beautiful, and quiet setting.