October 04, 2007

Great Vietnamese Food at Binh Duong (Worcester)

LL and I were too tired to contemplate making dinner last night, so we decided to go out for Vietnamese. We've been meaning to try a place on Stafford Street called Binh Duong, and it seemed like as good a time as any, so we headed over there.

The experience and the meal were excellent. We started off with an appetizer sampler of grilled ham meatballs, shrimp on sugarcane and thin rice vermicelli that was brought with some large disks that I thought were made of plastic and a bowl of warm water. We stared at each other for a moment, unable to figure out what the point of the water and disks were ("Are we supposed to eat off these instead of plates?") and decided it would be best to call our waitress over. She demonstrated that one takes one of the disks, wets it in the water bowl, and so transforms it into a wrapper for a spring roll upon which one places the appetizers. Roll you own spring rolls! It was excellent stuff, and our waitress, a tiny doll of a woman with a ready giggle and absolutely sunny disposition, only made things better.

LL was in the mood for soup and I wanted noodles, so LL ordered seafood soup (I think it was #16 on the menu) and I ordered seafood with "crispy or non-crispy noodles" (#37). I had my noodles non-crispy because I wanted something non-fried. It's a good thing that we ordered only these two items, because the portion sizes were outrageous. There was easily enough food to feed a family of four. Our entire tab came to less than $35, too, not including a well-deserved tip.

And that soup... woah! It was easily among the best I've ever had from any ethnic cuisine. I can't even begin to explain that because I can't upload the taste here. If you're in the neighborhood you'll just have to try it for yourself. If you like seafood in the first place, you won't be disappointed. It was loaded with scallops, shrimp, squid, fake crab (which is usually a little bit of a let-down, but Binh Duong makes it work), and straw mushrooms.

Even the ambiance was pretty good, although maybe showing the Game Show Network on a big screen TV takes away from it just a little. With such good food and service, though, I think that little sin can be forgiven easily enough.

Binh Duong is at 91 Stafford Street in Worcester, just across the street from the Webster Square shopping center (where the new A J Wright store just opened). It's definitely worth the trip. Sure, there are dozens of Vietnamese restaurants in Worcester, and I've only been to four of them so far, but I'd be very surprised if there was any better one in town. It opened in July, so it's a new place that I expect most of the locals haven't tried out yet. The Telegram gave it a good review in August, but we hadn't seen that. We just went on a whim.

I'm glad we did, because I've got plenty of leftovers for lunch today.

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