Rolling Spring Roll
(631) 609-5182, Farmingdale
Nowhere in the Island’s restaurant culture dedicated to Italian, Pan Asian, steak and Asian Fusion eateries will you find anything like Rolling Spring Roll. The only Vietnamese restaurant on Long Island, it takes its name from a popular food truck. It’s a modest, fast moving, cash only, family affair with a counter for placing orders, a very limited pho and sandwich shop menu, the aura of a luncheonette and a small open kitchen. Joe Bui, the chef/owner, his mother, wife and other assorted relatives run this neat, often deservedly crowded, minimalist spot of bare tables, bright green walls, bamboo wainscoting, stone floor, single piece of Asian wall art and a bottle of hot chili sauce on every table.
Rolling Spring Roll brings a bit of an exotic spin to the north end of Farmingdale’s Main Street, where its neighbors are Croxley Ales and the Wild Wild West Saloon. But it doesn’t attempt to cover all of its nation’s vast culinary landscape. Rather, it offers a very limited three-part menu of appetizers and pho (soup), rice noodle or steamed rice entrées and three Vietnamese sandwiches (no dessert, wine or beer).
Begin with both the four, slim fried rice pancake-wrapped spring rolls ($3) and the two husky, stuffed summer rolls wrapped in cold transparent rice paper harboring shrimp and vegetables and accompanied by an assertive peanut sauce ($5). Follow that with pho, Vietnam’s signature dish, a beef or chicken rice noodle soup (the pork was unavailable on my visit). It’s a respectable meal in a bowl sporting slightly spicy amber beef or chicken stock and thinly sliced meat garnished with vegetables and a big batch of noodles. Regular sized portions, enough for any normal diner, go for a modest $7.95 (the extra large helpings are $9.95). Unfortunately the expected accompaniment of bean sprouts, basil, lime, etc., never materialized.
The only bun or steamed rice main course we sampled was the grilled short ribs ($9.95, the most expensive entrée). The tasty, bone in, marinated beef disks rest on an extensive bed of fresh herbs, cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes. Some of the herbs are grown in Mr. Bui’s Vietnamese garden. Those herbs and greens also make a welcome appearance on the Vietnamese sandwiches presented on warm toasted French bread. The Angus beef satay with peanut butter ($6.95), grilled lemongrass chicken and Vietnamese bánh mì (both $5.95) are all worth ordering though we were slightly disappointed with the classic bánh mì with sliced pork rather than housemade pork sausage.
Bui is a former day trader who cooked for a year and a half at the well-regarded West East Bistro in Bethpage prior to getting his truck rolling. It’s now garaged and used only for catered events but will be on the road again once the Rolling Spring Roll restaurant is more firmly established. Presently his new venture is identified only by a temporary sign attached to the wall above the entrance. Temporary or not, that sign is a beacon to some adventurous diners who seek dishes unavailable elsewhere.
Photos by Pam Deutchman / T.H.E. Fitzgerald Photography