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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Vien Dong Fareast

Very good food!

When Geo takes me out to dinner, I like to say that he is "cooking." This is because he often picks the places we go and the food sometimes too. I let him decide the way he lets me decide at home. "At home," I do most of the cooking. Geo does make cream of wheat, and... hmmm... oh yeah, coffee. (He makes the coffee in our house and it's probably the best coffee of anywhere I have ever been. I am not sure how he does it though, he simply uses the kitchen coffee maker.) Anyhow, tonight, Geo cooked up a real treat... "far east" oriental.

We went to a little Vietnamese/Chinese place on Sprague Ave.... 1730 "EAST" Sprague Ave to be exact. The name of this place is Viem Dong."Viem Dong" You cannot see it on the sign because of the bus stop sign that got in my way. (Note: not "VietCong"... which had a more familiar intonation in my mind and it may help you, as it did me, remember the name of this particular place.) They have their menu on the internet and they advertise that they are in the "International district," of Spokane.

"International District? "

This was term I have never heard before, especially in regards to East Sprague, if you nnow what I mean; but the menu looked good, and we are into trying out new little ethnic-American type places so off we went.

The concept of the "International District" at least after looking at their webpage seems a bit of a good idea, an attempt to revitalize that area, make it a more desirable place for the average person who otherwise would have no business being there. While we were in the neighborhood, I had no idea it was the International District, but retrospectively, (as I write this) I do remember seeing place like Bollywood Indian Market and the "organic " One World Kitchen signs at shops nearby. I kinda wish I had known about the Market when my friend was visiting from India.I would have love to have him show me some of the foods he likes to eat.

EAST Sprague is certainly not the prettiest part of town, the buildings are run down and it can be a little intimidating in some respects, but it is definitely a cultural experience, earthy, urban, you might say. As for the ethnicity of the food, it is the real deal.

I will say too that the people we encountered walking past us on the street and in the restaurant as guests not to mention the restaurant workers, were all the kind of people who actually talk to you and smile. The experience of eating here had a lot of good things going for it, mostly the food. The restaurant has been here four years, and prior to this food adventure thing, I probably never would have thought to try it, but I am glad we did. It was great.

Inside the restaurant they have a sign that tells the most ordered items, the house recommendations and the guest favorites... House recommendations included Kung Pao Chicken and Shrimp with Pea Pods. We ordered neither of those but struck out on our own... and we liked what we had, so those other things must be fantastic.

The inside decor of the restaurant was painted pink and everything was tidy. It was nothing fancy and there was no wait for service. It was all rather quaint, complete with a little Buddha shrine where he was obviously offered fruit and tea throughout the day. There was no ethnic music... in fact, it was one of those places where you listen to American radio stations talk and play music while you eat, but I didn't mind. It was kind of fun, besides, the atmosphere was friendly, and the food was fresh and exotic.

We ordered Thia Tea (Trà Thái.) again. There were some other drinkable things on the menu, but Geo really likes the tea, so we went with that. Comparing it to previous times, I still didn't like it very much. It is one of those thing that perhaps I could acquire a taste for over time, but it may be while before that happens. At least by ordering it once again, I now know that the last Thai tea I had at the other place WAS actually supposed to taste like "that." I think I like it better than the coconut drink with chucky floating things in it tha tI have had before... well, on second thought, maybe not. I kind do prefer the coconut.

We also ordered the Spring Rolls for an appetizer which were yummy.... once you get past the cellophane type rice wrap they are in. For main dishes we ordered the Viem Dong "Special Chow Mein" and "Lemon Grass Tofu," which is tofu, stir fried with curry, chili, pepper, lemon grass and onion. ( đậu hủ xào xã ớt.) In addition, we ordered Broccoli Beef "to-go" for our son who was feeling like he had missed out on eating out with us lately.

Our conclusion: Everything was wonderful to eat, even the lemongrass tofu dish, which was spicy even though it was not listed that way.

The spring rolls were awesome. These always look so unusual to me, especially this time... but they were really good. It is such an interesting concept that I may have to try making these at home. Maybe I was just hungry, but I kin- of thought they might have been the best spring rolls that I have had.

The Special Chow Mein, pictured to the left, consisted of noodles and veggies like carrots, broccoli and peapods and various kinds of meat, including shrimp, which was very yummy.

The tofu dish was a completely different flavor. It was also spicy. The tofu, cut into cutlets and fried, then stir-fried with peapods, celery, baby corn, onions and lemon grass was very fun to eat. Here is a photo:
It did however make me wish I had not been so used to using "lemon grass shampoo." This was not one of my favorite dishes but we ate every last bite and it was good.

Geo is kind of a Tofu fan, I am not, though I do love lemongrass. You can tell because I like it in tea, like it in soup and I even bought it as a scent for shapmpoo once. I do not reccomend food flavors for detergent scents however.

As for the Beef and broccoli, our son ate all of it when we got home, so I am certain it was delicious too.

It was interesting looking around the place. Besides the Buddha, there were some gospel tracts on the shelf both in Vietnamese and in English.

I took a picture of one of the tracts. The writing is cool. I thought it was neat to recognize "2 Corinthians" amidst the Vietnamese letters... (It was somewhere on the inside.)

Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
How about that? It is even in Vietnamese!

If you want to see something more Vietnamese, look at the four spiritual laws tract, The Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ <---right here. In the next room, an additional dining room, there was some art on the wall that was rather unusual. They were mostly oil paintings, or so I was told when I asked about the paintings on the wall. I was not sure if they were there for sale, for decoration, or for simply honoring the artist. I didn't ask the story behind them, I simply observed.
As I mentioned earlier they offer some interesting drinks on the menu. We bought a couple of them that were in a can to take home, just because they were so unusual to us. One is called Grass Jelly drink and the other is Pennywort Having never heard of such things I thought perhaps sometime we would give them a try.

I am having second thoughts though...

Not having any Vietnamese acquaintances to tell me more about the usual beverages, I surfed around the web looking for more information about them when I got home. Interesting. It may be a while before I actually give these things a try. Meanwhile they make a great conversation piece. I am still getting used to drinking obscure things like coconut milk drinks (the one with floaties in it) and that unusual Thai Tea too. Pennywort may have to wait a little while.

It's not everyday that one gets invite to go hang around on Sprague, visit the International District and eat in one of the local diners there, but if you get a chance, it really is fun. I can tell you, the people we encountered were friendly, the food service was quite nice and the food was authentic for sure. You can view the menu on the internet as well as see what other people have to say about this restaurant at urbanspoon (click below on the spoon) should you need some additional motive to give this place a try.

We, like the proverbial "Mikie," (Remember those Life cereal commercials) tried it, and we liked it. Now I just have to get brave and taste the Pennywort.

Vien Dong Fareast on Urbanspoon

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