99% of restaurants have “safe” options in their menu, food everyone will recognize that is prepared and served in a familiar way. This being my first time experiencing Vietnamese food, I wanted nothing to do with safe. What can I say, I must be an adrenaline junkie.
Having skipped lunch, I jumped at the chance to order an appetizer and was intrigued when I saw the Vietnamese Crepe. In all my crepe experience (which is extensive and gluttonous) I had never run across this variety. Described as “a mixture of shrimp, pork, and bean sprout folded into a rice powder pancake,” I had no way of knowing if this dish was authentically Vietnamese and still have my doubts. It was slightly underwhelming in taste and overwhelming in portion. Though not unpleasant, it simply lacked flavor and was easily large enough to be a main course. It would also have benefited from more pork and shrimp, but is a fantastic choice if you have a unique and passionate love of bean sprouts and are looking for a socially acceptable way to order a garden’s worth.
I went with the recommendation of a fellow foodie who is well versed in Vietnamese cuisine (read: if a pretty girl recommends it, I will eat it) and ordered Pho for my main course. Sticking to my “nothing safe” plan, I ordered the Tai Nam Gan Sach: Rare Steak, Well-Done Flank, Tendon and Tripe. It was wonderful. The sweetness of the broth combined perfectly with the saltiness of the different meats, and though I’m not usually a fan of onions they accented the dish beautifully. After further recommendations I began adding several of the table sauces to the dish without knowing what they were (call me Evel Knievel) and firmly cemented my very positive opinion of Vietnamese food.
While I may try a different appetizer next time, there will most assuredly be a next time for Pho Dakao and its relaxed, unassumingly kitschy atmosphere.