228 West Jericho Tpke, Syosset
Scene: Bare walls, bare tables, bare-bones
There should be more Vietnamese restaurants on Long Island; the food is light, diverse and interesting, and it reflects the cuisine of its neighboring countries. Travel the length of this long, narrow southeast Asian country and diners encounter Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian influences. Still, there are only two or three true Vietnamese outposts in Nassau and Suffolk. Even the most recent offering is actually the second storefront of The Rolling Spring Roll in Farmingdale; it opened earlier this year where Villa Parma had been.
The Rolling Spring Roll began in 2012 as a food truck with a very limited menu (hence the “Rolling”). And it was really the only place to eat Vietnamese on the Island at the time. It developed an unexpected and devoted following that led to the owners opening a tiny sliver of a restaurant with a slightly expanded sampling of dishes. (It was temporarily closed for renovations when this review was written.)
This latest Roll resides in the Muttontown Plaza, is larger and has a more ambitious menu, but the same moderate prices as its predecessors and well-informed servers. At the time of my visit about four weeks after its opening, the restaurant was still rather basic with bare walls, tables and floors. Yet its menu offered a wide variety of Vietnamese choices including banh mi (sandwiches on toasted baguettes), an choi (appetizers), bun/co’m (noodle and rice dishes), dac biet (“special” Vietnamese dishes) and pho, which is a bowl of beef, chicken, seafood or vegetables with rice noodles in a rich broth accompanied by basil, bean sprouts, chili peppers and lime wedges.
It’s a meal in a bowl that’s big in Vietnam. The beef pho with sliced beef, brisket and meatballs ($8 to $13) is especially recommended. So too are shrimp spring rolls ($9), a signature dish at The Rolling Spring Roll, and thin Angus beef short ribs that are marinated and then grilled ($15). Less exciting were the lemongrass chicken ($9) with no discernable lemon grass, the tasteless sautéed tofu ($9) and the rather dry chao tom and nem nuong, a shrimp paste wrapped around sugar cane that is then fried ($15).