Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hien Vuong Vietnamese Restaurant

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I came here once a couple years ago before I moved to Kansas City. Let me tell you, having a decent Vietnamese restaurant is a big selling point as far as I'm concerned. KC has at least three that I can think of: Hien Vuong, Saigon 39 and the underrated Sung Son in Westport.

Hien Vuong--I always refer to it as "the Vietnamese place in the city market"--does a very nice mid-week lunch trade in spite of its somewhat drab atmosphere. Basically it feels like you are eating in someone's garage. Which, face it, you kind of are. The most interesting aspect of eating here is the possibility that the restaurant will be crowded enough for the "hostess" to seat you with complete strangers. Like many old school lunch spots, they have a couple big tables that are meant to be shared. That being said, it's really no big deal, it's not like anyone talks to me. In general the Hien Vuong is small enough that you may have to wait for a table to open up if you pop in at noon.

And be advised, the woman who runs the show here has an off-putting demeanor and is not necessarily welcoming in the manner most of us are accustomed. I do not think that she is a grumpy person at heart, but perhaps comes across that way more than she should. She generally does the seating and clearing of tables while another person waits tables. You generally won't a get a check delivered to your table, just go pay at the counter and the server will handle it.

The food here is humble in appearance but very tasty. The staples of Vietnamese cuisine such as Pho, Bun and the ubiquitous Vietnamese spring rolls are represented and they do not disappoint.

Hien Vuong Restaurant

Hien Vuong Restaurant

Certainly a classier joint like Sung Son takes full advantage of the visual potential of these foods, but Hien Vuoung simply throws the stuff in a bowl and turns you loose.

The menu is enormous and often includes a list of seasonal specials. During the winter you can get interesting dishes like dumpling soup, which I don't normally associate with Vietnamese cuisine.

Hien Vuong Restaurant

Like most sit-down places, this lunch spot is not geared to the lone diner. For reasons that I will deftly avoid, I find myself eating solo much of the time. If I forget to bring a book or don't want to bother, hate feeling self-conscious. Basically, I am content just staring into space but some restaurants make me feel uneasy when eating alone, and I'm not sure I can explain why. After all the real genius of the coffee shop is not its role as a social center, but its ability to cater to people on their own. In other words, it's fine to go get a cup of coffee and read the paper by yourself, but lunch is a different matter. By the way, why do I see no one reading in this town? Other places I've lived, a lot of folks read on their lunch hours. Well, I'll conduct a more thorough investigation before denouncing Kansas City for yet another shortcoming.

KC needs more spots like Hien Vuoung: a place where you get your silverware from a cup on the table, a place where you feel comfortable sitting inside on outdoor furniture, a place where remnants of the previous diner's meal may be evident when you sit down, a place where you may be seated next to a total stranger. This is the essence of lunch, because the food is good and it's no bullshit. Actually, I've had better Vietnamese cuisine, but you can't ask for any more from a lunch place.

Read more:

Hien Vuong on Urbanspoon

Yelp

3 comments:

phome said...

i do not like this place. take a quick drive down 5th street, go under north 9, enter Columbus Park and you will be treated to three wonderful options for truly superior Vietnamese food. at Kim Long you can order at the counter, grab a table and wait for your steaming bowl of pho ga to be delivered, loaded with a mix of white and dark meet chicken, green and white onion and fried garlic. after you eat you can grab a bubble tea and pick your much needed asian groceries up in the attached market.
pho kc is also a FABULOUS alternative to Hien Vuong. grab a menu on your way in, seat yourself at a table and when the server comes to take your order i recommend the egg noodle wonton soup(amazing!!!). all the soups are superior here though. and dont forget the to try the hot chili sauce on the table. its mixed with fried garlic and oil and made in house. really kicks up the flavor in the wonton soup.
of course Vietnam Cafe is and has been the safe and consistent stand by for Vietnamese in the city for years and i think what needs to be said has already.

The DLC said...

phome, thanks so much for this (and your other) comments! I have known about Kim Longs for a while and just haven't made it there for some reason. Good to know about Pho KC too. I appreciate not just the restaurant recommendations, but also hearing what you like to order. Hope you stick around!

black_rice_666 said...

I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!!!!! The food is so good, the pho and hu tieu are homemade, springrolls and crabrangoon best in the city!! This place has been opened more than 20 years, and I have been going there for 18years. Its not super fancy which I love, I never feel awkward asking questions. The servers are nice and honest; when they explain an entree to me it is exactly what I get. Since there are more than 100 things to choose from. Here are some of my favorites(you order by number) :
#1- springrolls.
#2- sweet potato fries and shrimp deep fried together.
#9- slice beef pho (beef broth soup).
#17- shrimp, squid, crabmeat, and slice bbq pork in a chicken broth soup.
#23.24.26- bun(noodles) with either eggrolls, pan grilled pork, or sauteed lemongrass beef each comes with beansprouts, lettuce, cucumbers,pickled carrots.*noodles are served warm which is way better than the traditional cold way and remember to order a side of herbs.
#34-pieces of delicious porkchop, a fried egg, eggcake, pork skin, green onions, pickled carrots, and cucumbers served with sweet and sour fishsauce.
#40-chunks of white meat chicken and veggies with yellow curry, it comes with steamed rice.
#73- marinated black peppered tofu served with steamed veggies and rice.
#82- shrimp, mussels,crabmeat,squid in chicken broth with a dash of sate.
~ seasonal specials
-pan fried chicken and cabbage dumplings.
-crabrangoons.
-chicken salad( pickled carrots and cabbage with pan grilled chicken, herbs and peanuts).
-sweet and sour chicken/shrimp/tofu those are seperate entrees, but all 3 are awesome and huge.
-dumplings, chicken, and shrimp in a chicken broth soup.
They sometimes have cheaper snack size food available on Sat and Sun that you can ONLY get as togo which are served in open red paper food dishes, so you can eat and browse around the City Market easiler.
You have got to try those I promise you won't be disappointed!
*****Note they are always packed during lunch hour, so be prepared to wait in a line if you want to go for lunch.

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