A friend suggested we try the Thai Binh Duong for lunch after reading a review on the Journal last week. When we arrived and realized that it was in the old Doan's location my expectations were raised just reminiscing about the lemon grass chicken and the salad rolls that Doan's served in its golden beginnings.
The room has been expanded but the layout and feel are still the same. The menu was reasonably concise, and it had two of my favorite main courses: Bon Bo Hue soup ( my benchmark = Pagolac or Hoang's ) and lemon grass beef on vermicelli ( my benchmark= Golden Bird).
We ordered salad rolls, a Bon Bo Hue for me, and a grilled chicken on vermicelli for my friend. I expected the salad rolls to be served first but our server brought out the soup first. It was piping hot, which is good, but exceedingly mild in taste and spicing. The mint that came with it was seriously wilted and the sliced jalapenos were, well , Mexican - not the traditional small red and green peppers that are served in most Vietnamese restaurants. The soup was unremarkable, and my friend found the grilled chicken vermicelli quite generic. The salad rolls were brought to the table in the middle of the meal (even though the restaurant was almost empty), three big rolls, uncut, tightly wrapped with good size shrimp and freshly cut pork roast slices, but without mint leaves in them. They would have been acceptable with a good peanut sauce, but the sauce we had was dark and sirupy, and tasted more like a chinese soy based sweet sauce than a peanut sauce.
I asked the server about the jalapeno peppers and I understood from her response that they were considered less dangerous than the traditional peppers for those that don't know how hot those little peppers can be. That explanation typifies what this restaurant seems to be about, generic Vietnamese for the general public. I don’t think it will generate any cravings.