For Eastern fare, come west to Vieng's
It may not have been one of the original restaurants at Crocker Park, but Vieng’s Asian Bistro has established itself as a definite stop in Westlake’s entertainment mecca.
A giant statue of Buddha, with falling waters behind him, greets you as you enter this contemporary style décor restaurant. Las Vegas-style booths surround two sides of the U-shaped bar, also with a falling-water backdrop, which centers the Bistro. The rest of the dining areas are a mix of booths and tables. There is also a very spacious outside patio with a large gas fireplace and very quaint outdoor lighting strung from end to end.
The description “Asian Bistro” in the eatery’s name should be your first hint that they serve a variety of Eastern cuisine. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Indian offerings make the menu quite large.
One tip starting off is that the portions are generous, so sharing with friends is a great way to experience lots of dishes, which is exactly what my party of four did.
We all started off with cocktails; my wife ordered her usual Cosmopolitan. When it came to the table, it bubbled with a slight mist rising from it – yes, they put a small piece of dry ice in it – my wife just loved it. Nice presentation!
Let’s talk sushi. If you want to see the sushi chef in action, sit at the front of the bar where there is a small sushi bar. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what they are making or what you should order, they’re very helpful. And if you order sushi, remember to toss a few dollars into the tip jar of the chef; it is truly a fine culinary art and should be rewarded.
The misconception is that all sushi is raw; I was one that believed that, too. Novices should try the California Roll ($5). Crab meat, cucumber and avocado rolled with rice outside, dipped in soy sauce with fresh ginger and a little wasabi – it’s delicious. When I say a little wasabi I mean it, it makes horseradish seem tame. We also tried Dragon Roll ($13) featuring barbeque eel (scrumptious) and Spider Roll ($12) with soft shell crab, which my friend said is “consistently perfect every time.”
We were expecting the sushi to be served first as an appetizer but, disappointingly, the whole order arrived together.
We shared Vietnamese Roll ($4), a thin rice pancake stuffed with cabbage, glass noodles and seasoned pork. It was deep fried golden brown and wonderfully crispy, served with a sweet plum/ground peanut sauce. Yum.
We tried Vieng’s Pad Thai ($12) next and were hooked. Their signature dish of rice noodles, egg, shrimp and chicken all stir-fried and garnished with bean sprouts and ground peanuts – once you start, you can’t stop.
The Orange Chicken ($15) was chunks of chicken thighs batter dipped and fried crispy then tossed in a spicy orange sauce that left just the right tingle on the tongue.
Of course, no meal would be complete without Pork Fried Rice ($7), a tasty blend of scrambled egg, onion, peas and carrot tossed in soy sauce. In my opinion, it was the best fried rice dish I have ever had. You could opt for either chicken, beef or vegetables if you‘d like, but for me, pork is the standard.
There are a few more items I must touch on. Sweet Sour Chicken ($11) is a great item to order for kids, actually enough for two kids. Crisp chunks of breast meat chicken with stir-fried vegetables, served with that classic red sauce. Lo-mein Noodles ($10), a delicious blend of onion, bean sprouts, carrots and egg noodles mixed in a their special teriyaki sauce, again choose your meat or make it vegetarian.
Watching the Peking Duck ($38) in all its crispiness being deboned tableside is quite the show. It does require 45-minute cooking time but I was told it’s worth the wait.
With its relaxing decor, extensive menu and attention to detail, Vieng’s Asian Bistro is a satisfying choice in busy Crocker Park.
Vieng’s Asian Bistro
139 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, $4-$10; Salads, $6-$13; Rices/Noodles, $9-$12; Sushi/Sashimi, $4-$17; Entrees, $12-$38; Desserts, $4-$8
Credit cards: All major
Kids menu: No, but many kid-friendly items
Bar service: Full bar
Accessibility: Excellent entrance & restrooms
Grade: 3 Stars
Ratings: 1 star: Fair; 2 stars: Good; 3 stars: Very Good; 4 stars: Excellent
Steve Novak is a Westlake resident and 30-year veteran in the restaurant industry, working at all levels from dishwasher to manager to chef/owner. The Observer makes two anonymous visits per restaurant and does not accept complimentary meals.