Monday, February 9, 2009

Hai Yen (Lincoln Park location)

Like idiots, we officially over-paid for mediocre Vietnamese food, thanks to Hai Yen. This is what happens when you don’t stick to Argyle for Vietnamese food.

Our Vietnamese friend highly recommended Hai Yen for their “7 courses of beef”. Instead of going to their Argyle location (as recommended), we decided to try their Lincoln Park location because it's closer in proximity. O..M..G. First of all, the menu was so much shorter than the Argyle location (referenced: menupages). There was no “7 courses of beef”. They didn’t even have the usual variety of pho to choose from… just a couple “soups”, including ‘pho tai’ (beef pho).

We were starving, and overheard people shouting from the kitchen in Vietnamese, so I figured it was worth a try. This is what we ordered:

Goi Cuon (2 rolls) – Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp ($4.50 each)
Idiot action#2 – I asked for 2 orders of spring rolls, because I assumed each order came with 1 roll. Idiot action#3 – I accidentally pointed to the “shrimp” option instead of “shrimp & pork”, or even “beef”. Shrimp-only spring rolls lack that salty punch. As usual, I asked for ‘nuoc mam’ (fish sauce mix), and it was one of the worst fish sauce dip ever… it lacked flavor. Although the shrimp was fresh, and beautifully rolled tight the way I like them… the entire dish was borderline bland.

Chao Tom – Ground shrimp wrapped around a sugar cane and grilled. Served with Salt, Pepper, and Lime. ($8)
I should’ve known this would be a dish catered towards people unfamiliar with Vietnamese food…it reminded me of a Chinese appetizer that serves the same purpose. (think: shrimp toast with no toast) It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not authentic. I am so mad at myself.

I decided to test out two of their chicken-broth based soups. Sup Mang Cua was soothing, but reminded me of egg drop soup with crabmeat. Canh Chua Tom was a bit too sour, but at least tastier – a hint of Tom Yum. The only positive point is their use of large/fresh seafood.

Sup Mang Cua – Tender crabmeat, white asparagus & egg whites in light chicken broth. ($4)

Canh Chua Tom – Shrimp & exotic vegetables in a tamarind flavored chicken broth. ($4)

I am really irritated that I accepted the waiter’s recommendation of this dish. I fell into the trap because I LOVE wide rice noodles, I was starving, and he said “Crispy part of the noodle is not TOO crispy, just lightly crisp, still soft on the inside”. As easy as this seems, restaurants often screw this up… so for him to recommend the dish, and explain how perfectly the chef crisps the noodles ever so slightly… I had to just try it.

Omg… the friggin noodles were pretty much triangles of DEEP-FRIED CHUNKS! There was no soft chewy insides!! And it was SO fried up and CRUNCHY, that I can taste a full tablespoon of vegetable oil in every bite. Again, only positive point is the fresh seafood… nothing else. The sauce (again) reminded me of Westernized-Chinese! Yuck!

Hu Tieu Xao Do Bien – Crispy wide rice noodles with seafood ($11)

I still regret not being honest with the waiter when I tried this dish. I should’ve just asked for a side of soft wide rice noodles because the CRUNCHY grease chunks were not ‘slightly crisp’, like he promised. But the guy seemed so harmless and nice that I felt bad. I am a weakling. Now this dish leaves me hungry, craving some pillowy soft, slightly chewy wide rice noodles. THANKS.

Cai Kho To – slowly braised Sea Bass in a clay pot with sugar & garlic ($16)

Hub & I are suckers for ‘clay pot’, and we both love fish, so I ordered this pricier dish. The flavor was good, slightly over-seasoned, but good with rice. Fish was very tender, melt-in-mouth.

But yeah… not enough of a reason to return… ever. I want to check out Hai Yen in Argyle… but no more of this Lincoln Park location bull-crap. I feel so dumb after checking this out, especially since this meal (including tip) costed us nearly $70. For Vietnamese food! No drinks! For LUNCH!

Hai Yen
2723 North Clark Street
Phone: 773-868-4888

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