Restaurant: Cafe Minh, Mid-City
I met Brother O’Mara at his place of work for lunch today. We had planned on dining at the ol’ tried-and-true, Pho Tau Bay, for our Vietnamese food fix, but luckily remembered it was closed on Thursdays before we crossed the river to the Westbank. Still craving Asian, we took a promenade over to Cafe Minh on the corner of Canal and David in Mid-City.
Here’s a blurb from the Times-Picayune:
Cafe Minh is a folksy New Orleans version of a type of restaurant that you tend to find wherever large herds of young professionals graze: the affordable, stylish cafe specializing in Americanized Asian cuisine. Namesake Minh Bui comes upon the style honestly, having instinctively merged his native cuisine with that of his adopted home. He was the first local to fix Vietnamese cuisine with new American wings, and when the kitchen is on its game — as it is with its nut-crusted oysters and lacquered ducks — the fusion still tastes fresh.
We were there around noon on a weekday, but thankfully it wasn’t crammed full of people shoveling food into their mouths on their lunch hour. The decor was nice–contemporary and clean, yet unobtrusive. We sat near the bar, which appeared welcoming and well-stocked. I bet it’d be a pleasant place for Happy Hour. The bland Top 40 floating in over the speakers was mildly off putting, but easily ignored.
I don’t know if we came just after the rush or what, but when we walked in the door we were met by a host who was running around like it was 7:30 on a Friday night. He brushed passed us at a rapid pace and pointed to a table without even stopping to see if we were behind him. Not a word of greeting, whatsoever.
We got our menus and drinks, then ordered our food. Pho for Brother O’Mara (I think he could be relatively happy eating nothing but good pho for every meal), and chargrilled pork soup for la fille. The host took our orders and again displayed not a lick of interest in us and gave us no more conversation than, “Are you ready?”
Brother O’Mara, pho connoisseur that he is, approved of his meal. He’s a ruthless judge of the Vietnamese soup, and this one passed muster, for sure. The broth was flavorful (if a tad salty), the beef of good quality, and presentation satisfactory (hoisin sauce, sriracha, basil, lime all supplied). Mine was tasty as well. I love the way Vietnamese restaraunts prepare their pork, but I’d never had it served in a soup. It used a different broth that wasn’t quite as full of interesting flavors as pho, but was definitely serviceable. (I did, however, add some sriracha and a little hoisin.)
The service continued to be utilitarian, but nothing more. Our water glasses were refilled, but no one wasted any energy on making sure we were pleased with our meals. The financial transaction was completed in almost complete silence and our receipt dropped off without a word at all.
Bottom line: the food was great, but the atmosphere created by the staff made me feel rushed, herded, and not particularly welcome or appreciated for being the unique flower that I am. I’ll probably stick to Pho Tau Bay, even if I do have to cross the Mighty Mississip to do so.