Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Uyen Thy Bistro -- bridging two cultures

Uyen Thy Bistro,
9039 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683
(714) 898-9889

I suddenly realized I've been too focused on a certain type of Vietnamese cuisine -- noodles, salads, rolls, the more ethnic varieties if you may, but I've failed to give the French-inspired Vietnamese food much thought. So today, with a
friend in tow, we traipsed down to Uyen Thy for something a little more Indochine.

Uyen Thy's interior was a little more casual than I had expected since it touts itself as being a 'bistro'. However, it's got that charm one would find at Lulu's Creperie in Laguna Hills or Cafe Casse Croute in Anaheim. We decided upon the chicken curry, beef stew and the fried chicken with two types of rice. Since the chicken was served with rice, we opted for
baguettes to go with the other dishes.

The food arrived pretty quickly since almost everything was precooked and on the steam table. I wish they had served it at a piping hot temperature, so maybe next time, we'll have them heat it up a bit more before bringing it out.

Chicken curry tasted just like the Asian style chicken curries I've had in Hong Kong -- good flavor, but the sauce was a little watery. However, that didn't deter me from dipping it with a piece of baguette and popping it into my mouth. Beef stew looked like its western counterpart, but there was a distinctive difference in the taste and that was in the use of star anise as a spice. Both of these dishes tasted like something my mom would cook. It had that homey effect, something which gave me a sense of comfort, like an old blanket I had grown up with, or a stuffed toy which I had shared a good part of my childhood with.

If you like fried foods, then the ga ro ti (fried chicken) will nevertheless be the piece de resistance to your meal. Three pieces of perfectly fried chicken -- crispy skin with moist flesh -- served with three pieces of fried sticky rice and two sticks of bamboo filled with purple rice. This purple rice is a result of mixing sticky rice with black sticky rice and has a slightly sweet taste to it. My favorite was the fried sticky rice triangles. A garlic soy sauce was served alongside as a dipping accompaniment which you can use for the chicken, the sticky rice or all three.

So even though French-Vietnam may be a thing of the past, the cuisine of this era long gone lingers in the food of Uyen Thy. The menu is large and extensive, French-influenced, Vietnamese, or just plain French, regardless of what you choose, you can be sure the food will be reassuringly good.

(note: MSG definitely detected, but it wasn't overpowering enough to send me into a food coma, but I was very thirsty for hours after)

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