Review: VietNam Style in University City

Editor's Note: VietNam Style is now closed.

With craveable Vietnamese at affordable prices, there’s a lot to love about VietNam Style when it comes to the food. Go for the mix-and-match lunch special, which comes with an appetizer, drink and entree for less than $10. Skip the soda and opt for a specialty drink like a thick and generous avocado-based smoothie or sweet Vietnamese iced coffee, perfect for complementing a savory, spicy main course.

Fried Viet Style Cheese Wraps
Every single appetizer on the menu is fantastic, but the cheese wraps are the outstanding choice of outstanding choices. Picture what you wish all crab rangoons were actually like, and then add a quail egg. House-wrapped and fried to a deep burnished crunch, they nail the proportions of wonton to melty, flavorful cream cheese goo and imitation crab meat with the bonus of the tiny egg inside.

Banh Mi
I’m a sucker for a good banh mi, but most don’t have the necessary hallmarks of quality and taste. Perhaps the most important part, VietNam Style’s baguette captures the quintessential crusty exterior with soft, pillowy crumb that make for a great sandwich. Go with the sardine and tomato sauce version, which has a vinegary-sweetness complementing that fishy funk, instead of the standard meat choices.

Original Sizzling Steak
The signature sizzling steak is served in a skillet, smothered in onions and a fried egg. There’s an option to upgrade to filet mignon, but the regular steak (a sirloin tip) is so good, there’s no reason. Seasoned with a house spice blend, it’s simple, flavorful and juicy despite usually showing up medium-well to well-done. You might be tempted to get the rice as your side, but don’t be fooled – the bread (same used in the banh mi) is the ideal delivery method for sopping up steak-n-onion juice. The meats at VietNam Style may not be attractive, but their gray pallor belies savory, spicy perfection. All are cooked and seasoned masterfully – even the meatballs featured in many dishes pack an inspired flavor, despite an uninspired hue.

Pho Ga
Pho’s popularity might be eclipsed by the rise of ramen in the U.S., but one slurp of the herbaceous offering from VS will make you reassess your priorities. A large bowl of rice noodles and broth is topped with a hearty portion of chicken with a boat of basil, jalapeno and sprouts on the side to steep to personal preference. Normally I find a full bowl of pho daunting for a single lunch, but I found myself munching along happily until it was gone, then sipping up the last of the broth.

The Downside
While there’s virtually nothing to complain about when it comes to the food, I will mention the Lisa Frank color-scheme. The bright pink and green surrounds won’t detract from your meal, but they do seem out of place. The service can be mixed, but on my visits everyone seemed like they were genuinely doing their best. And parking can be a bit of a bummer in The Loop, especially with the current construction, but none of it should be a roadblock for getting out to VS for an affordable, first-rate meal.

Vietnam Style, 6100 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.405.8438, Facebook: VietNam Style