Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Restaurant review: Viet Hong Lang 越香蘭

By David Chen  /  Staff Reporter

Messy but delicious: Deep-fried spring rolls with beef and vermicelli at Viet Hong Lang.

Photo: David Chen, Taipei Times

The shop front sign at Viet Hong Lang (越香蘭), located near the corner of Fuxing North and Minsheng East roads in Taipei, reads “Vietnamese fusion cuisine,” which is somewhat misleading. The restaurant’s selection caters more to diners looking for a fancy twist to familiar dishes rather than those seeking a culinary adventure.

Still, the food is good and reasonably priced for what you get, and the chic Southeast Asian interior (walls painted in pastel green and maroon hues, silk lampshades) matches the neighborhood’s business district vibe without feeling too stuffy.

What caught my eye and lured me into Viet Hong Lang for lunch was its shop front window, which was filled with stacks of baguettes. Although the loaves in the window were leftovers only for display, the bread served by the restaurant is baked fresh daily and tastes delicious.

Try it as part of the banh mi (越南三明治, NT$70 for takeout, NT$120 when dining in), or Vietnamese sandwich. The baguette loaf, which measures around 20cm long, comes toasted so it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It’s filled with the standard ingredients: pickled carrot and julienne daikon, thin strips of cucumber, cilantro, cha lua (a light Vietnamese sausage), a few strips of smoked ham and a very light spread of sweet butter. The sandwich is a nice light lunch for those on the go.

A vegetarian version is available for NT$50, or have a plain baguette with either jam and butter (NT$50), condensed milk (NT$30), or “special house butter” (NT$60). These items are only available for takeout, but dining in, you can get the baguette with curry chicken (咖哩雞肉法國麵包, NT$160) or tomato sauce beef (茄汁牛腩法國麵包, NT$180).

Viet Hong Lang 越香蘭

Address: 305 Fuxing N Rd, Taipei City (台北市復興北路305號) Telephone: (02) 2718-0596

Open: 11:30am to 2:30pm, 5:30pm to 9:30pm Average meal: NT$160 to NT$360 per person

Details: Credit cards accepted On the Net:

Another recommendation is the deep-fried spring rolls with beef and vermicelli (越式春卷牛肉拌米粉, NT$160). I ordered this rice noodle salad dish with a hankering for spring rolls but came away most impressed with the accompanying strips of beef, which were grilled with onions and tasted like they were marinated in a curry sauce. The beef went well with the accompanying mix of fresh bean sprouts, sprigs of basil and mint, and a sprinkling of crushed peanuts. Compared with similar offerings at some of the better-known Vietnamese shops in Taipei — the Madame Jill’s chain, Thanh Ky (誠記越南麵食館) on Yongkang Street (永康街), Yue Yuan (越苑) on Dunhua North Road (敦化北路) — Viet Hong Lang’s versions topped them all.

The pho, on the other hand, is a tougher call. What Viet Hong Lang calls “rice noodle soup with rare and well-done beef” (生熟牛肉河粉, NT$160), was tasty and well prepared: the broth was fragrant; the dish comes with generous portions of fresh cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, mint and lemon; and the beef was of good quality. But together those elements didn’t leave a strong impression. It wasn’t bad, but unlike the sandwich or the vermicelli with beef, it wasn’t quite worth the trip.

Most noodle dishes are between NT$160 to NT$180, and a lunch set menu is offered for an additional NT$60, which consists of a choice of two of the following side dishes: papaya or chicken salad, borscht or soup with beef meatballs, a “dessert of the day” and coffee or tea. I had the papaya salad, which was zesty and refreshing, and a sago dessert with red beans, which could easily be skipped — it was bland and watery.

The menu selection is large and includes shared dishes such as shrimp rolls, salads and grilled meats, which range from NT$180 to NT$280.

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