I don’t know if that’s as wholly fair as it is kinda funny, but
the point is this: just because you can’t compare Vietnamese
cuisine & Thai cuisine per se doesn’t mean you can’t mention
a prime Vietnamese joint & a middling Thai, er, bistro in the
same sentence. See, I just did.

And having happened to sample the repertoire of both
Dong Khanh Saigon Bowl
(in the Far East Center at Federal
& Alameda) & Jason’s
Thai Bistro
near DU on the same day, I couldn’t not be struck
by the culinary pride & generosity of spirit of the one in
light of the overall dumbed-down corners-cutting of the other.

My pal Larry (he’s the photographer whose stellar portfolio of
the pickles & pumelos & plucky or puckered faces of their
vendors in marketplaces around the world
I’ve referenced
before) & I spent a hyperleisurely lunch the other day
picking over the pile of tidbits & morsels & fry candy
that is Dong Khanh’s all-of-$18 signature appetizer platter the
other day—


shrimp cakes & egg rolls & half a softshell crab on top,
grilled chicken & pork strips & cold rice noodles on
bottom, lettuce & basil & sliced cukes & shredded
carrots & daikon & peanuts, all for wrapping in rice
paper disks softened in warm water like so


(the tricks: be quick before they get sticky on you, & keep
the mix of fillings to a minimum sizewise so they’ll hold) to
form your own fat cigars of goodness graciousness, which you dip
in the classic Vietnamese sauce, sweetish nuoc cham (think duck sauce with
class), before chomping away.


We also split goi tom
& got this gorgeously crisp & kicky
concoction of cold sliced roast pork & plump shrimp, sprouts
& mint & sliced chilies & more basil & peanuts
drizzled in a dressing not unlike nuoc cham, but lighter &
more than a bit spicy.


Dim-lit styrofoam aside, how could the Director’s & my
take-out trash from Jason’s not pale in comparison to what
remained as fresh & vivid in my memory as it was on the

Mind you, I’m all for rifling through trash upon occasion—who
doesn’t get down with a gloppy gallon of sweet & sour pork or
fettuccine Alfredo or chile con queso now & then?—but, to
paraphrase Stephen King, who once said of his writing something
like, “Sure, it’s salami, but it’s good salami,” if I ask nicely
for soppressata you’d better not toss me Oscar Mayer.

And if I order crab—not krab, crab—& avocado salad, you’d
better not serve me a bunch of lettuce with a smattering of
shredded processed whitefish on top.


And if I order fried tofu, I want crunchy golden-brown chunks of
soybean curd, not marshmallows or cotton balls.


And if I order plain old steamed veggies with beef, chicken,
shrimp & scallops, I’d better not get plain old steamed
veggies with beef, chicken & shrimp. (No photo necessary, I

To end on a positive note, though, I will give it up for the snap
pea–studded signature rolls with beef, unexpectedly stirfried
with onions until caramelized & juicy, accompanied by a
peanut sauce that actually was, as opposed to just melted peanut


Now that’s more like it. I mean, not like it—Dong Khanh—but adequate in &
of itself.

Saigon Bowl on Urbanspoon