One of many small restaurants along the Morse Road strip in north Columbus, Huong Vietnamese Restaurant is every bit a modest, family run operation. It’s got a simple sign, simple decorations and unassuming menu. As low-brow as the place might look from the outside, don’t judge it: The staff here cooks with all the heard of a Michelin star restaurant. The assortment of very Vietnamese dishes offer delicious vegetable and noodle combos that will always fill you up, satisfy you, and make you want to come back.
So, if you’re unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine, the menu is dominated by rice and noodle dishes topped with ample vegetables and various meats. Many of these dishes are served in a large bowl, and meant to be topped with a broth that adds more flavor. Rich and savory, the assortment of these dishes generally come with vermicelli and very fresh ingredients.
- Bun chay: Sauteed beef and shrimp top the dish, while the simpler Bún Chay dish has a fried tofu that is, in spite of its tastiness, still relatively healthy. It’s meant to be eaten kind of like a salad, you mix all of them together and feast with chopsticks. The dishes are elegantly simple.
- No. 8: Bánh bột lọc: Steamed tapioca dumplings filled with pork and served with a fish sauce. Its a Vietnamese appetizer that is often hard to find in the Midwest but it’s a little on the greasy end here.
- No. 30A: Cơm tấm suon nrong: Com Tam, otherwise known as ‘broken rice,’ is a dish with fractured rice grains. This one is topped with a pork chop. The chop is a little bony, but still good.
- No. 39: Bánh xèo: also known as a ‘sizzling cake,’ this is a type of a lettuce wrap that is stuffed with a kind of Vietnamese crepe, itself stuffed with fatty pork and bean sprouts. Best eaten by hand.
- No. 50: Chè trôi nước: A simpler dessert made of rice flower stuffed with a sweeter mung bean paste. The coconut milk adds some more sweet to this dish too.
The large menu features a lot of different dishes which sound relatively similar, but in fact they taste wildly different. The addition of different broths, different preparation of the various meats, and vegetables radically altar the flavors you are trying. I’m sure the average Columbus native doesn’t know much about Vietnamese cuisine. To that I say, if you’re already adventurous enough to give this place a try, just go out on a limb and try something new. It’ll pay off.
The service here is outstanding. It’s a family operation run by ethnic Vietnamese who seem exceptionally versed at keeping you happy. In spite of the number of guests dining, and in spite of the orders taken or the trouble each guest can sometimes be, I never saw the smile falter from the face of the wait staff. Heart like this is lost on chain restaurants. These people really enjoy pleasing the customer, and it is glaringly apparent when the place just seems so darn pleasant, in spite of its limitations.
Huong Vietnamese is a characteristic hole on the wall surrounded by many ritzier destinations. But don’t let its appearance fool you. You’ll get a good meal here, and you’ll find a group of people with a real passion for what they do. Vietnamese food isn’t as common in America as many other types of cuisine, but don’t let the obscurity fool you: It’s worth a sample.
- Give the variety of noodle dishes a try, they are described fairly well on the menu.
- Vietnamese food had a great variety of dishes for a vegetarian menu.
- The modest atmosphere is well-suited to small groups.