I'm hoping to get to this one in Toronto soon, but since I live here, not there, wondering whether there's anywhere in PDX or environs that specializes in Northern Vietnamese-style cooking. Thanks.
Here's part of a review for Hanoi 3 Seasons from a Toronto publication:
The North Vietnamese variations begin with a fabulous starter known simply
as Hen ($5), a literally explosive dish I have the radioactive evidence in
the NOW Test Kitchen microwave oven to prove it of minced baby clams,
chopped raw green chilies and wilted strips of cabbage and onion. Sided with
black sesame seed rice crackers that act as scoops, this fiery stir-fry
builds to a slow burn while referencing the pan-Asian mix of seemingly
disparate cuisines of Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Before opening 3 Seasons last spring, Luke travelled to his homeland, where
he convinced several name restaurateurs to show him the secrets of their
kitchens. Taste one in Bun Bo Hue ($6), the famous pho of central Vietnam.
Pronounced "fuh" as in "fuh- cough," this complex, meal-in-one beef soup has
an often contrary spicing like much of the short lineup that is hard to
At first sip, you taste soapy coriander followed by fragrant notes of
lemongrass. Next, coconut appears on the spice palate underscored by roasted
chilies, before a final rush of fresh mint, sour tamarind and the slightest
suggestion of dill, the last a colonial French twist.
Fresh snippets of dill also appear in Do Bien Sao Rau Cai ($6.50), a savoury
seafood 'n' skinny rice vermicelli stir-fry topped with a terrific trio of
steamed green-shelled New Zealand mussels, a pair of grilled tail-on shrimp
and shards of faux pink crab. Like most of the ample meat and veg mains, the
dish gets its unique spicing from turmeric, black pepper, garlic, liberal
chunks of ginger, lemongrass stalk, coriander leaf, Thai basil and minty rau
ram, plus Indonesdian shrimp paste rather than southern nam pla fish sauce.
Crisp, knife-cut shards of iceberg lettuce and crushed peanuts, too.
Turmeric really comes into play with curried chicken satay (Ca-ri Ga Sate,
$6.50), slim slices of grilled chicken kicked with coconut, raw scallions
and crunchy mung bean sprouts. Only Pho Xao Voi Rau Xanh wide fried rice
noodles tossed with a perfunctory tangle of baby bok choy ($5), and one of
the only strictly vegetarian items on the card disappoints, its spicing
almost non-existent in contrast to the pyrotechnics that precede. Back on
track, we finish with deliciously creamy durian milk shakes and iced
Vietnamese-style coffee, Café Sua Da (both $3).