For those who want to eat like a king, or in this case, an emperor, an imperial legacy of dishes can be found in one, rather strange place in the Valley.
A counter-service stand in the Mekong Plaza food court in Mesa: Hue Gourmet.
Distinctive to the rest of the country, the cuisine of the Vietnamese city of Hue (pronounced "hweh") has a royal pedigree because of its status as the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty between 1802 and 1945. And at this hidden gem offering a taste of the city's royal side as well as more modern-day meals inspired from throughout Vietnam, diners will find uncommon, highly flavorful, and ridiculously affordable dishes from an owner and cook who's equally as remarkable.
Fans of Vietnamese food fasten your seat belts -- you're in for a rare treat.
Here's an excerpt from this week's review:
"There are ivory platters filled with beautiful banh knot, bite-size versions of the Vietnamese pancake, with a coconut milk-based crunchy exterior and a satisfying filling of shrimp and onions. There also plates of miniature banh loc la, which resemble the insects suspended in amber of Jurassic Park but actually are sautéed shell-on shrimp and crispy, fatty bits of pork floating in translucent pillows of sticky and incredibly chewy tapioca flour wrapped in banana leaves for a sweet taste with a bit of crunch. And there's a tray of dainty dishes containing banh beo, dimpled, petite rice cakes filled with golden shavings of salty dried and ground shrimp, green onions, and one or two bits of crunchy pork skin. Depending on your table manners, these can be scooped out in a single woobly spoonful or slurped like an oyster."
Hungry for more? Read my full review of Hue Gourmet here.