le bleu

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bún with garlic butter prawns

In this country, when we think of Vietnam, we think–for good reason–of the Vietnam War. But before we got involved in that cold-war mess, Vietnam was a French colony for about 100 years until the Vietnamese successfully earned its independence in 1954 (the Vietnam War started shortly thereafter). Under French rule, the local cuisine and customs fused with French staples and techniques. For example, a bánh mì is a French-bread sammich stuffed with Vietnamese fillings. Because of this French influence, we have Le Bleu, which must confuse the hell out of folks stopping in for a little escargot.

Le Bleu is the fast-casual brick-and-mortar sister of the trailer Saigon le Vendeur on East 7th Street, considered by many to sling the best bánh mì in town. And I have to say, it’s a mighty fine bánh mì with perfectly soft-and-crunchy French bread stuffed with the freshest of ingredients (~$10; toasted french bread, aioli, pickled carrot & daikon, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro, spicey chicken). Freshness, and the simple beauty of that freshness, carries throughout the menu. As someone who loves bún, Le Bleu serves up the best I’ve had (~$10; rice vermicelli noodle, mixed greens, sprouts, pickled carrot & daikon, cucumber, herbs, fried onion, toasted cashew, and chili-garlic nước mắm with spicey chicken). We also tried the gỏi xoài (~$7; mango salad: shredded green mango and papaya, Vietnamese herbs, poached shrimp, pork belly, fried shallot, toasted cashew, and crackers). In addition to chicken, Le Bleu serves up options of grilled pork, O.G (Vietnamese cold cuts, pork belly, pate), lamb, tofu & seitan, prawns, and shaken rib-eye (a French method of preparing beef).

As is often the case when trailers transition to storefronts, the menu seems simple, but with food this good, there is no reason to complicate things. Saigon le Vendeur and Le Bleu come from the able hands of Tebi Nguyen who grew up next to a bánh mì shop in Saigon. Watch a video here of Nguyen describing how he works his bánh mì magic.

March 28, 2019 update: Le Bleu now has a dinner menu with tableside service in the evenings (after five). But don’t worry: The lunch menu is served all day!

web&where: interwebs; 9070 research boulevard, suite 303; (512) 770-1100
overall: **** (food****; drink*; atmosphere*; service**; instagrammability****)
cost: $$
does it scramble? no doggy bag; no scramble…

our scale:
–          meh [think twice]
*         OK [it’ll get the job done]
**       good [solid neighborhood joint]
***     damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
****   yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]

each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entree and appetizer (no drinks)

I wrote this review for the Allandale Neighbor

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bánh mì with spicy chicken

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bún with spicy chicken

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gỏi xoài (mango salad)

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