Halong Bay Restaurant
8920 161st Ave NE
Redmond WA 98052
Pho Done Right in Redmond
By: Steve G
Vietnamese food is very hard to come by in the Redmond area. While many will always suggest Than Brothers, we are a little turned off by the segmented types of food that they serve there. With pho being the only option, one might get the impression that pho is the only great food from Vietnam. Sure, if you're looking for pho and a freebee cream puff, you're sure to find what you're looking for at Than Brothers, but what about Vermicelli bowls and rice dishes? Fortunately, Halong Bay offers plenty of dishes that Than Brothers lacks and the pho itself is also pretty good.
Quietly situated between Typhoon and Sushi Land, Halong Bay is modestly furnished with some plain tables and a large fish tank in front. It looked quite apparent that the restaurant was converted from some other business as the cashier table looks out of place when compared with the rest of the decor.
The hallmark of a good bowl of pho is the broth. Many of the other ingredients are predicated solely on the level of sheer freshness. When it comes to pho, the quality of the broth can make or break it. We ordered the chicken based Pho Bo and the beefy Pho Ga. After adding some bean sprouts and some cilantro, we submerged our spoons to get a taste of Halong Bay's broth. After a couple of slurps the broth seemed genuine enough with little to no traces of MSG.
Preparing the broth is usually takes a few hours of meticulous work in addition to a few good beef bones such as the various legs bones, which are packed full of tasty marrow. The goal is to create a very clear broth by parboiling and rinsing the bone with the marrow during a three hour simmer. Some restaurants cut some corners by adding in MSG to get that characteristic salty flavor and while that may be cost efficient, it's also very unhealthy. The true telltale sign of MSG is that god awful feeling of dire thirst requiring glass after glass of water to quench.
After a couple of gulps of broth and a few slurps of the thick noodles, that dire thirst never arose leading us to think that the broth is truly made from scratch. And while it had an absence of MSG, the broth seemed a little tame. The noodles were pretty standard and substantially thick, but not to stringy (though they might have been a tad underdone).
For side dishes we ordered some Cha Gio (egg rolls) and Goi Cuon (spring rolls). Stuffed with minced shrimp and chicken, the Cha Goi was served with sweet chili sauce that was excellent.
Overall, Halong Bay isn't the fanciest restaurant near Bella Botega, but if you're looking for some decent Vietnamese food in Redmond that doesn't attempt to placate you by throwing in a free cream puff, then Halong Bay is the spot for you.