Looking back over the calendar, it's been a year since we had a Vietnamese dinner, and over two years since we visited Dao Tien, which then was a brand new restaurant. As I was enjoying my Bo Luc Lac for lunch there today (since this is about a mile from my office, I'm nearly a regular), I realized, it's time for a return here!
Cuisine - This is pretty traditional Vietnamese food. While the menu isn't as huge as some like Mai Lee, it offers an excellent cross-section as well as some interesting and authentic variations. You have probably heard of pho, which is generally considered soup - although in reality, it's a meal in a bowl with some soup in it! This is a staple of the cuisine, and here you have no less than ten variations to start with... but it doesn't stop there! They have no less than sixteen "extras" you can add, from bo vien (meatballs) to bi (shredded pork) to su'o'n nu'o'ng (pork chop) to tru'ng (egg) to... well, quite a few more! You could put together a huge meal in a bowl of pho if you wanted, but why stop there? Bun (vermicelli-based dishes) Banh Mi (sandwiches) and fried rice and rice platters are equally well-represented, and they too can have your choice of extras added. The selection of spring rolls covers the gamut as well, but what drew me in were the main entrees. My favorite Vietnamese dish is Bo Luc Lac, which is country-style beef and actually a fairly plain dish. It seems like every place I try it, it's different, and more often than not, excellent. But Dao Tien hits it out of the park! Served sauced here (usually the sauce is for dipping), this is the best Bo Luc Lac I've ever tasted! But don't stop there; you'll also find wonderful renditions of favorites like Lemongrass beef or chicken, Spare Ribs in Clay Pot, or if you're feeling creative, how about papaya with beef jerky? Dao Tien also offers a list of vegetarian dishes, plus several seafood choices, primarily fish and shrimp. I also appreciated that they will tweak the ingredients for you if you have a preference, which is great if you're like me and picky about lots of things!
Cost - Dao Tien shines here as well! The vast majority of dishes are under $10 with a great many of them centered in the $7-$8 range and quite a few even under $5. All those extras I was talking about run about $2 on average. The larger entrees are a bit more, but even then they are all in the low to mid teens with nothing over $20. Of course, Vietnamese food is usually pretty economical, but still, this definitely an inexpensive place to get some great food, and that's what our "cheap eats" dinners are all about!
Additional Info - Dao Tien is located on the southwest corner of Olive Blvd and McKnight, just east of I-170. There is a large and mostly empty strip building on the corner, but Dao Tien is nearly hidden behind it. Turn south (right if you're coming from I-170) from Olive onto McKnight, and then you'll see the restaurant behind the other building. Plenty of free parking.
As with many (most, it seems these days) of our dinners, while the "official" start time is 7:00, you may spread your arrival out a bit starting at 6:30, in order to help even the load on the kitchen. Plan on having a leisurely dinner and socializing!
I'll be looking forward to seeing lots of frugal foodies on Thursday, August 14th, at Dao Tien!
Dao Tien Bistro