Update: Ha Long Bay has closed.
We normally don’t eat out two days in a row, and we normally don’t head up to the Polaris area, but as we were out and making a trip to Carfagna’s on 161, and Polaris wasn’t too much farther, we decided to use that opportunity to visit Ha Long Bay.
Ha Long Bay is a sit-down Vietnamese restaurant, located in an unassuming strip mall near the corner of Sancus and Lazelle. Once inside, the room is decorated in a comfortable red theme, with a good sized dining room. I’m going to apologize in advance for the pictures; the lighting was rather dim so I needed to use my flash, and the pictures turned out a little harsher than I would have liked.
It took us a while to decide, because nearly everything on the menu looks delicious (except the durian smoothie, of course – stinky cheese is yummy, stinky fruits are not!). I absolutely love Vietnamese-style spring rolls, but most have shrimp in them, so I was delighted to see that there were many choices here that were shrimp-free.
We decided on three rolls for our appetizer. The first, Bo tai chanh rolls ($3.50), are rare tender eye-round beef marinated in lime-pineapple and vegetables, surrounded by a fresh rice wrapper, and served with a peanut sauce. These were fantastic, with a wonderful crunch that went well with the softer textures of the beef, noodles, and rice wrapper. The peanut sauce worked well with the flavors of the rolls.
The second, an order of Bi cuon rolls ($3), were very similar, but with a shredded lean pork in the center rather than beef, and a chili sauce on the side. These, we weren’t as crazy about, due to the stringy texture – this may be a personal peccadillo, however, rather than a deficiency in the food. The taste was good, though.
We also shared an order of Vietnamese eggrolls ($3), a deep fried wrapper filled with lean ground pork, mushroom, shrimp, carrot, onion, cabbage, and saifun noodles. Although these had shrimp in them, I couldn’t taste it and thought these were the best of the lot. They were served with a sweet and sour sauce.
I’m a huge fan of pho, but have only had it from one place previously, and wanted to try some from a different place in comparison. Wanting to stick as close to my usual as possible, I ordered the Beef Noodles Soup ($6.95), which is pho broth with thin sliced eye-round beef, onions, and rice noodles. It is served with fresh basil and bean sprouts on the side. The server brought out this HUGE bowl of steaming broth and noodles, so big that I immediately asked for a second spoon. For those of you who haven’t tried pho, the broth is not like your typical beef broth. It’s more complex and with deeper flavor notes, due to a mix of spices that go into the slow-cooking process. The pho broth here at Ha Long Bay is superb – full bodied and flavorful. This pho dish one of the biggest lunch bargains in town, folks.
However, we found it a bit too messy to eat there, and decided to package it up to eat the rest at home later.
It’s hard to believe we had any room at all left for entrees, but we did. We worked up an appetite again trying to decide what to go for. On a previous trip, I had the Vietnamese street noodles, which I liked very much. My husband ordered something last time that he wasn’t too crazy for, and also wanted to order the Street Noodles. Since we have an unwritten rule that when we eat out, we should eat two different entrees (so I can try his, and he can try mine) it was a battle of wills over who was ordering the Street Noodles.
I won. The Vietnamese Street Noodles ($7.75), is a noodle dish reminscent of pad thai without the spicy seasonings. It is a combination of rice noodles, lean ground pork, and mixed vegetables, with your choice of beef, chicken, or shrimp. I chose the chicken. This a very safe dish for those who aren’t very adventurous, and the server says it’s their most popular dish. The flavor is good, even without the added heat.
My husband chose the House Grilled Noodles ($7.95), which is grilled marinated beef, pork, and shrimp (my husband opted to eliminate the shrimp), eggrolls, mixed vegetables, served with room temperature noodles. The noodles have a bit of sweet/vinegary sauce with them, and this dish was oh-my-god fantastic. What really made this dish spectacular is the crunchy eggrolls – my advice is to ask them to add extra eggrolls when you place your order, as the 4 pieces that were in there were quickly consumed. I loved this dish so much that my husband did get his wish, and we traded entrees.
Service was fast, super-friendly, and helpful when it came to describing dishes and making suggestions. And the food was so good that I think I would make a special trip to Polaris (clear on the other side of town) just to eat there again. And the price is right – my husband and I got out of there with a check that was half of what we usually spend on a meal eaten in a restaurant. If you haven’t gone yet, I highly recommend it.
If you’d like to go: Ha Long Bay, 8489 Sancus Blvd, Cols., 614.436.4087