Phoenix: Dining

Phoenix, Arizona Restaurant Reviews- Vietnamese

Avina’s Vietnamese Restaurant

By Christopher C. Happ
Phoenix Entertainment Magazine

I had the pleasure of dining at Avina’s last week.  I had passed the restaurant located in the Fry’s Shopping center on 43rd Ave. and Bell, during the Christmas holiday, although at this time they were closed.
The restaurant is small but comfortable.  The origins of the restaurant can be found on their website at www.avinas.net.

There are a dozen or so tables with some that can accommodate parties of six.  On this night there were a number of Asians enjoying large bowls of noodle soup. The menu states a 10% discount for Thunderbird Graduate school students as well as ASU East and West students and Honeywell employees. 

There is a large television that  was tuned to a cable Vietnamese station and featured beautiful women with long dark hair singing and dancing Cher-style, backed by a full orchestra. 

As I walked in, I was greeted and seated by a pleasant young woman.  There are 11 appetizers offering skewered pork, spring rolls, egg rolls and crepes.  I opted for the Banh Khoi, Sweet potato cake. ($1.00) It was a hamburger patty sized crispy deep fried cake, crunchy and sweet set on a pool of pureed pineapple.

The list of Banh Mi caught my attention.  I had heard of these Vietnamese Submarine sandwiches but had never sampled one. I wondered if the origin of this dish had anything to do with the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. 

How else could we find French bread as a staple of Vietnamese cuisine? The frogs got whipped pretty bad and perhaps during their hasty retreat had to leave behind truckloads of baguettes!

The menu description is: French bread filled with meats, cucumbers pickled carrots, jalapenos & cilantro.  There are six varieties — chicken, sliced pork, barbecued pork and pork meatball.  An older woman who I assumed was the owner took my order. 

I chose the first listed Banh Mi Bi, billed as shredded pork Sub. ($3.99)  The woman mentioned that she recommended the BBQ pork sub as the one that I chose had pork skin and I may not like it; possibly she has had complaints before.

I forged ahead with my choice nonetheless.  It was delivered soon after and consisted of a split French roll, the top slathered with mayonnaise and overstuffed with exactly what the menu stated.  The store bought French roll was a bit disappointing but the crunchy mix of cilantro, carrot, cucumber and jalapeno slices, made the sandwich. 

Perhaps she was right about my choice though, in addition to the vegetables there was a portion of finely shredded pork skin, which was chewy and rather rubber band-like but she did warn me.  It was still quite good.

At a table nearby, I saw a beautifully golden-brown deep-fried noodle bowel filled with vegetables and shrimp; quite colorful and appetizing. 

I had ordered a Vietnamese condensed milk iced coffee Boba.  ($3.50)  It was possibly the richest most flavorful coffee I have yet encountered.  Slightly sweet due to the addition of the milk. 

There are seven listed desserts on the menu.   From rice pudding sweet kidney beans and coconut and fruit concoctions.  I opted for the Kem Nuoc Cot Dua- Coconut Ice cream but alas they were out. 

I plan to return to Avina’s to sample the noodle, rice and seafood dishes.  I am looking forward to sampling a dish listed under the heading Pre-ordered party entrees.  Ga Don Thit- BBQ Boneless stuffed Chicken stuffed with peas, carrots, clear noodles, onions, dried Asian mushrooms.  ($30) Also listed are salted crab and Stuffed squid ($30 & $20).

In addition to the Asian diners there were a few students but not a Frenchman in sight; most probably still licking their wounds from Dien Bien Phu!

Avina’s Vietnamese Restaurant
4349 W. Bell Rd.
Glendale, AZ 85308

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