One weekday just before Christmas, fellow IndyScriber Rachel Wolfe told me about this little Vietnamese place tucked in a strip mall behind Castleton, and she and I decided to head there for lunch.
If you like fresh ingredients and lustrous flavors and don't have any phobias relating to rice noodles, then this is definitely a place worth visiting.
Viet Bistro resides in the former home of another Asian restaurant. (I went there once, a long time ago. It was a buffet. There was sushi.)
Neither Rachel nor I could resist the soft spring rolls ($3.95 for two), which were the highlight of the meal. The thin, translucent, pale rice skins were filled with vermicelli noodles, pork, lettuce, fresh mint, and shrimp, the shrimp carefully positioned so that it was visible through the delicate wrapper. The rolls are served with a spicy delicious peanut sauce for dipping. The cool crunchiness of the lettuce and mint is a great complement to the rich pork and shrimp flavors. And I just love UN-fried spring rolls -- they make for a much lighter appetizer.
For the main course, I had a giant steaming bowl of Pho, a traditional rice noodle soup served with a side of bean sprouts, basil, lime, and hoisin sauce. According to their menu, this is a traditional breakfast meal. It makes a tasty lunch as well. This version featured large medallions of thinly sliced rare beef in a clear broth. It was a little tricky tackling the meat with chopsticks -- it had a tendency to slip free of my grip and splash back down into the soup, but it was worth the minor mess. The broth was rich and salty, and the beef was a little on the chewy side, but flavorful.
Rachel ordered the fried tofu, which I found to be bland. It came with plenty of hoisin sauce for smothering, which helped to give it a little kick.
There were many nice touches, from the fresh lime wedge in the water glasses to the array of fun table condiments (hoisin sauce, liquid "seasoning" and Sriracha hot sauce). Rachel's lemonade was strong with a hint of fresh lime.
Our server was very friendly, chatting us up at the beginning of the meal. Service dragged a little toward the end (why does that always happen when it isn't crowded?).
I'm eager to come back here for dinner, where the menu is much larger and the exotic drinks beckon. I'm tempted by the descriptions of the lotus stem salad, shaky beef and fresh dill Thang Long sizzling style fish. Vermicelli noodles, clay pot dishes, and elaborate soups feature heavily.
It's nice to have another option in town for East Asian food. I hope Viet Bistro sticks around long enough for people to enjoy it.
5763 E 86th St
Indianapolis, IN 46250
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