Que Huong Restaurant – Vietnamese-Chinese Cuisine
4011 Capital Blvd Suite 133
Raleigh, NC 27604
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11 am-2 pm and 4 pm-9
Review Date: November 13, 1997
Reviewers: Reviewed by Bill Sribney, David Erb, Dilip Barman, and Shelli Fein
We had the pleasure of having Bill Sribney, a much-loved TVS member and past newsletter editor, visiting us when we had our November review. Bills presence, along with that of Dilip and David, was the best part of the whole dinner. After hearing Dilip talk about Bill for several months (I had arrived here from my college town of Binghamton, NY shortly before Bill and his wife Laurie had moved to Binghamton!), I was happy to find out that Bill is indeed as nice a guy as Dilip made him out to be.
What can I say about Que Huong? Inside it looks a lot like most standard Chinese restaurants. Some rows of plain tables and chairs with a counter for ordering take-out and some artwork of fish swimming on the walls constituted the atmosphere. Possibly because it was near closing time, the speakers were mute; usually I feel restaurants play music too loudly, but in this case some Vietnamese music would have made the place seem more authentic.
Overall, we were not very excited about the food offered. The first problem came when we saw "fish sauce" in the vegetarian section of the menu. The waitpersons said that any of the dishes could be prepared without the fish sauce. The variety on the menu seems great, but at second glance, many of the dishes are the same plus or minus one item.
When the spring rolls came out with shrimp in them, I grew worried that our meals would come with the fish sauce instead of the brown sauce alternative. The waiter quickly took back the spring rolls and replaced them with vegetarian ones. We reminded him again of our request to have the fish sauce removed and we were assured that the meals would not have any. The spring rolls wrapping was a little too tough and they did not have enough vegetables in them, but overall they were tasty. The peanut dipping sauce was very good.Next came the main courses, most of which were served with steamed rice (except Dilip's dish). I had the Dau Hu Xa Ot (tofu stir-fried with minced lemon grass, onions, and celery, in a spicy sauce; $5.99). Bill had Mi Cang Xao Xa Ot (wheat gluten stir-fried with chilli, celery, onions, and lemon grass; $6.99). Dilip had Banh Hoi Thit Nuong (cold rice vermicelli with grilled wheat gluten, usually served with fish sauce and fresh vegetables; $7.99). David had Dau Hu Xao Dau Que (stir-fried tofu and string beans; $6.99). Prices seemed to be in line with other area Oriental restaurants, though I thought they were a touch too pricey.
Bill and I almost immediately noted that our two dishes were quite similar except for the wheat gluten and tofu. Although my dish was not spicy like the menu stated, and perhaps too oily, it was tasty and plentiful. Bill felt that his selection "was too sweet and oily, much like not very good Chinese food." David liked his dish, but found the tofu too oily. Everyone agreed that Dilips dish was the best by far. Dilip doesn't enjoy eating Chinese food but "I liked what I ordered", he said about his Vietnamese dish, "the vermicelli was good and I really liked the purple basil." Bill added, "Dilips dish was full of interesting flavors - little spicy, little smoky, great with the purple basil on the side."
The best aspect of the food had to be their use of fresh vegetables. Everyone remarked that Que Huong could easily make the menu more varied and enjoyable by using more of the vegetables and spices; David thought they should have more peanut and bean dishes.
You can make your own judgement about their sensitivity to vegetarians (fish sauce in the vegetarian section and the shrimp in the spring rolls), but I should mention that there was definitely a language barrier. They were willing to accommodate us and they did not give us a hard time in taking back the spring rolls. Overall, I think that they made a good effort. With a little education in vegetarianism, the place could be a good restaurant for the vegetarian. But then, so would most places.
We had a very interesting experience. Dilip ate the lemon in his lemonade and Bill said he would pay for David and Dilips dishes if they became vegans. Between noting whether or not the meals had fish in them and putting up with Dilips and Bills jokes, we managed to have a good review. If you visit, do try the vermicelli with wheat gluten, be sure the staff understands your vegetarian requirements, and encourage them to cook with more vegetables!