As I have said before you really can’t go wrong when dining on North Broadway, unless of course you suffer a momentary lapse of reason and wind up in the Spangles drive-thru. Little Saigon is a newer addition to the street and is located just down the block from the venerable grandaddy of Vietnamese restaurants, Saigon.
The owners of Little Saigon have done a nice job of updating the interior with plenty of seating and a clean dining room. Unlike several of the Vietnamese restaurants in town, Little Saigon features a full service bar with daily specials.
Doughy Pork Goodness
The menu covers all the essential dishes expected at Vietnamese restaurants including several varieties of Pho, noodle dishes, and rice bowls. There are also some Chinese and Korean dishes as well as exotic smoothie flavors. On our visit one of the daily specials were steamed pork dumplings and being a person that finds it hard to pass up any pork containing food, we ordered some. For our main course I went with a Banh Mi sandwich and Steph ordered a noodle bowl with shrimp.
The pork dumplings were a doughy treat. Served with a sweet dipping sauce, they were quickly consumed. My Banh Mi was filled with thinly
The Banh Mi
sliced pork, cucumbers, cilantro and julienned carrot and was served on a generous half loaf of French bread. The meat was tender and well seasoned, while the veggies were crisp and fresh. My only complaint was it seemed there could have been more sandwich fillings to compete with the thick loaf of bread. The noodle bowl was filled with thin rice noodles, stir fried veggies, and shrimp with crushed peanuts and a sweet and savory sauce topping it all off. The dish was simple yet satisfying, which is something that the Vietnamese cuisine excels at.
Noodle Bowl with Shrimp
Little Saigon is a solid and acceptable addition to the North Broadway dining scene. Since they are open seven days a week you can get your Vietnamese fix any time.
NOTE: Since the time of this review we have visited both the north Rock and Old Town Wasabi locations and have never been disappointed. Our favorite roll is the Stonehenge, a mammoth deep fried roll filled with crab, avocado, shrimp tempura, cream cheese and topped with masago.
Although Wasabi has had an Old Town location open in Wichita for a while, it took the opening of an eastside location for us to finally make a visit. About a month ago Wasabi opened up on North Rock Rd. in the old Bossa Grill location. They did a decent amount of renovation to the restaurant space, adding a Sushi Bar and Japanese styling to the interior as well as the obligatory TV that for some reason was tuned to the Chiefs game. We had a large group with us on a Sunday afternoon, but luckily the restaurant was fairly slow. Perhaps that is why there was some loud music coming out of their sound system. I don’t know what is with some of these trendy Sushi places(Ahem, Sumo) and their proclivity to play loud annoying music, but Wasabi was jamming it out on this particular afternoon.
The Stonehenge: A Don’t Miss Maki Roll
Perusing the menu at Wasabi was a rather daunting task. They have a very extensive list of sushi and maki rolls including many specialty rolls to choose from. Besides sushi, Wasabi also offers other Japanese and Asian dishes such as yakisoba noodles, bul go gi, bi bim bab, and teriyaki plates. I was feeling adventurous and decided to order the 10 Piece Chef’s Choice Sushi and California Roll dinner. Steph decided to try a non-sushi dish and ordered the Tempura Shrimp Udon Noodles. My meal came out with a wide variety of sushi present. I had crab, salmon, tuna, and halibut pieces that were all rather tasty. My Cali roll was served with shredded crab meat, instead of the typical chunks, and was equally delicious. Steph and I both enjoyed her large-portioned shrimp and noodle bowl, although the shrimp were a touch overdone. It had a good mix of veggies and shrimp with the right amount of sauce. The portions at Wasabi are large, which enabled me to sample some other rolls that our party had ordered. By far the best one I had was the Stone Henge, a giant roll stuffed with crab, tempura shrimp, avocado, and cream cheese. If that weren’t enough it was deep fried and topped with a sweet masago sauce. This is definitely a roll you can’t miss when paying a visit to Wasabi. Toward the end of our meal the waiter brought out two dishes that were compliments of the chef. He gave us a raw tuna salad and a beautifully crafted ball of thinly sliced avocado that was stuffed with a crab mixture. I believe it was called an Avocado Ball and I highly recommend it.
Overall I was impressed with Wasabi. It is certainly a good value as far as sushi goes. Their rolls are large and reasonably priced. If you order a side salad and some miso soup you have a filling meal for around $15 dollars. While I still give the edge in Wichita sushi to Kanai, it is a good option for the eastside of town.
To commiserate the last day of summer break Steph was in the mood for sushi, so we headed to Hana Cafe. Hana is located in Old Town Square which happens to be a great place for chain free restaurants. You have Hana, Imbiss, Sabor, Caffe Moderne, and Lucca all in one convenient location. This was our first time visiting Hana since its recent renovation and we were impressed with the changes, although the entrance looks like you are going into a dance club.
As you enter the normal glass door from the sidewalk you find yourself in a small entry area with a windowless door that must be passed through in order to feast on Asian delights. Upon entering we were met with an upscale looking interior with a bar and divided dining area. They had clearly done quite a bit of expansion and renovation to the former space. We were seated in one of the oversized booths and began our menu deliberations.
We decided to try one of their Korean specialties, Bi Bim Bap as well as some maki sushi. Hana cafe offers a “bento box” lunch special which is like the Japanese version of a frozen dinner except that it’s not frozen and it doesn’t taste like steamed socks. You simply pick from one of several maki rolls and it comes served in a partitioned box that includes and egg roll, salad, and steamed rice. We ordered a shrimp tempura roll with our bento box and tried a crunchy California roll as well. The shrimp tempura roll was fine, but nothing spectacular. The crunchy Cali roll was very good served with a sweet sauce drizzled over the top. The best part of the meal was the Bi Bim Bap, which is a Korean dish with rice, eggs, spinach, carrots, sprouts, and your choice of meat. It is also served with a bowl of moderately spicy sauce on the side. This sauce must be mixed in with the rest of the food to get the full experience. I really liked the Bi Bim Bap, but Steph thought it was a bit too spicy for her.
Wichita has an ever growing list of sushi places and I think that Hana is one of the better ones. They do not have as large a selection as other places, but their prices are reasonable and their proximity to delicious gelato at Caffe Moderne are big pluses. Don’t forget about their Korean dishes because they are solid choices as well. So the next time you are preparing for a wild night of clubbing, just head toward all the pretty lights of Old Town Square and check out one of the aforementioned chain free places.
Today Phil and I went to Manna Wok for lunch. It is located just to the east of Harry and Oliver, the actual intersection is Harry and Elpyco. This works out great for me since my school is just down the street. If you like eating in a restaurant that would be dwarfed by a single wide mobile home this is your place. The seating area can hold at most 25 people and a simple curtain is all that separates you from the kitchen, where one of the owners is always getting his wok on. The restaurant is owned by a Korean couple who you will see each time you go in. Both are incredibly sweet and appreciative of your business. The absolute best part of this restaurant though (besides the food) is that all of the walls are covered in pictures of people who have eaten here . We are not talking about a wall of famed, overrated celebrities or in Wichita’s case our local news anchors, but actual customers. Stephanie has a picture with her mom and two brothers below the cash register. It is from high school so that should give you an idea of how long we have been eating here. There is also a random collection of books and plants on one side of the restaurant. I have never asked, but you may be able to check the books out and bring them back the next time you’re in the area in case you find a good read while waiting for your freshly made chicken teriyaki(which by the way is groin grabbingly good).
So we admit, Manna Wok is one of our absolute favorites. We have yet to visit this place and be disappointed in the food. Today, Stephanie went with her traditional sesame chicken and salad. The salad isn’t anything to scream about except for the dressing. It is a delicious ginger dressing that will make you want to slurp out every last drop. You can also get egg drop soup (kick butt!), but seeing that is was over 100 degrees in ICT today that did not sound appealing. Now for the sesame chicken, banish all thoughts of that fried dough with a little bit of chicken you get at Dillon’s or Great Wall that makes your stomach do flip flops. Think instead of stir fry with chicken, zucchini, onions, bean sprouts, and other veggies that I can’t remember currently. Add to that a small bowl of some kind of sauce that is heavenly. Next to the sesame chicken is a heaping pile of very sticky rice. I have a confession. I have been coming to this restaurant for over 10 years now and only once have I ever ordered anything other than the sesame chicken. I know, I know. I should venture out and try something new on the menu especially with a food blog, but that sesame chicken is so dang good that I just can’t pass it up.
I, Phil, branched out and tried the Korean Beef Bul Go Gee(or Kee) this time around. Bul Go Kee is a sweet marinade that is used on thinly sliced pieces of meat and then served with their signature thinly sliced mixed veggies and great steamed or fried rice. Of course it was delightful and I would highly recommend it.
To top off the meal we were given fortune cookie and two pieces of bubble gum. The thing about Manna Wok is how delightfully quirky the owners are. I doubt there is any other place in the city where they bring you fortune cookies and gum along with your check.
You may drive by and think we are nuts and there is no way you are going in, especially with two bars in the same parking lot. So you will just keep on driving to get some Dillons Chinese that has been sitting in the warming pan for 4 hours and that is just fine, but if you have that attitude you aren’t probably reading this blog. Hey Manna Wok is actually pretty mainstream now because they finally accept debit/credit cards after so many years of cash only. Remember, to find some of the best food in town, you have to go to the places that make you uncomfortable. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.