We ate a spring roll. A summer roll. A fresh roll and a salad roll.
Kinda sounds like a verse to a Vietnamese version of Tubthumping by Chumbawamba.
Luckily for us all, those are just the many guises of fresh herbs, lettuce, and shrimp (or pork or beef) wrapped in rice paper. Any name you give it, it still makes for some nice light eats on these hot summer days.
In One Corner: Blue Moon Vietnamese Kitchen
1933 West Main Street #8 Mesa
The Set Up: Family owned, we were greeted by the mom and her two daughters. To the left there were bubble shaped chairs and tables specifically for enjoying light eats and boba tea. To the right were larger group dining tables and a wall of fame (or shame, depending) of those brave enough to take on the monster bowl of pho challenge. Had we gone solely for the spring rolls, we could have experienced sitting in a bubble, but someone in our group decided to take on the pho challenge. A bowl too large for the bubble table. Staying on track, we tried the shrimp, grilled pork sausage and beef spring rolls.
Pros: There was plenty minty freshness to accompany each of the three spring rolls we sampled, but our favorite part was the thinness of the rice paper--completely transparent with just enough stickiness for texture.
Cons: Although the beef spring rolls offered the most flavor, there just wasn't much to be said about the grilled pork sausage or even the shrimp. If it weren't for our growling stomach and the zippy peanut sauce, we would have definitely passed on the latter two spring rolls.
In the Other Corner: Da Vang 4538 N. 19th Ave. Phoenix 602-242-3575
The Set Up: Every table here is family sized and nearly every chair was occupied by multiple generations of Vietnamese families breaking bread (er, rice noodles). There are leaks in the unintentionally convex ceiling which are noticeable from the open dining hall type setting. Once again we tried three of the spring rolls on the menu: BBQ pork, shrimp and vermicelli.
Pros: There's no skimping on size here. You could make a meal out of one order of spring rolls and potentially be full for $3.
Cons: Typically, Da Vang gets rave reviews for their pho and spring rolls. We're gonna venture to guess we caught them on an off week. We could barely stomach more than a few bites, of any of the three, even with the loads of plum sauce soaked through. The shrimp rolls were made with an undesirable deli styled turkey, and the vermicelli was incredibly dry and gritty and also had what seemed to be bits of turkey. We wished it were a pho battle.
The Verdict: Drum roll, please. Although some may cry for a rematch, Blue Moon Vietnamese Kitchen takes this round, and our monster bowl of pho challenger joins the wall of shame.