Dining at White Bowl, you would think the restaurant has been established in the area for years. Despite how delicious it is, I never expected Vietnamese food would catch on here as quickly as it has. You’ll see people of all ages eating there, and while part of the appeal may be the idea that it’s the only local restaurant offering this specific cuisine, White Bowl’s appeal is likely due to how accessible its delicious menu is. After all, the two most iconic dishes, pho and bahn mi, are just soup and sandwich.
But what a soup and sandwich they are! Pho is always an elevated soup experience. There are very few restaurants nearby where you can get by ordering just a bowl of soup. To start, the portion is huge with amazing broth and plenty of noodles, and there’s so much going on inside that you won’t tire of it halfway through. White Bowl offers a number of different protein choices, but brisket or tofu go best in the pho. Each bowl is also accompanied by a plate of fixings you can add to your liking: bean sprouts for crunch, basil for flavor, jalapeno for spice. Finish it off with some spicy sriracha and you’re ready to indulge.
Just as the broth is everything for a good bowl of pho, a bahn mi is just a sandwich if it doesn’t have that perfectly flaky baguette. Each one features crunchy carrots and cucumbers, raw jalapeno, cilantro, and a creamy sauce. The grilled sausage, cut into thin slivers, or pork bahn mi are best at White Bowl and extremely cheap considering the quality of the sandwich (far better than a “five-dollar foot long”). Splitting a bowl of pho and a bahn mi (conveniently cut in two) makes for a cheap and fun date.
White Bowl has tasty egg rolls, spring rolls, and other appetizers, but you can find those at most Asian restaurants in the area. If you’re in the mood for an appetizer at White Bowl, go for the shrimp toast: four crispy slices of toast with a layer of hot and chunky shrimp dip that’s so good, you’ll want to make a full sandwich with it. They’re a perfect bite to share.
Hiding with the bahn mi rather than the pho is the beef stew with baguette. It’s placement on the menu is a testament to how important dipping the bread in the savory broth is to enjoying the dish. It’s not very different from the vegetable soups with salt meat many a grandma make around here, with the exception of some flare from the cilantro. All of the soups at White Bowl have that comforting quality, as if slurping down a bowl will heal you of any sickness you may have. The beef stew is an especially great choice for when you want something comforting and delicious.
If you’re not in the mood for a soup or sandwich, White Bowl has great fried rice with grilled meats, but you may want to go with something more unique from the vermicelli section of the menu. These bowls forgo the broth and opt for loads of noodles and meat instead. It’s hard not to taste our local grillades in the grilled pork, again with a bit of Asian flare. Don’t be afraid of the fish sauce that accompanies many of the dishes here. It’s sweet and sour and works so well with this type of food.
Be sure to check the daily special board before ordering. There are usually several like the bun bo hue, similar to the pho with a spicier red broth and loads of grilled tofu that soak up the broth’s flavor especially well. Another special, the bahn xeo, is a crepe stuffed with bean sprouts, onions, shrimp, and brisket. Don’t go in expecting a delicate little crepe, though. This thing is massive and nearly bursting with the stuffed ingredients.
If you’re still hungry after all that, or looking for something sweet at the end of your meal, grab a bubble tea to go. They’re more like thick milk shakes featuring unique flavors like honey dew melon and avocado as well as the more familiar strawberry. What makes them truly interesting is the inclusion of small tapioca balls at the bottom of the cup that get randomly sucked up through the straw, giving you a taste of pudding. It’s worth getting just for the novelty, but they’re very tasty and easy to take with you.
If you can’t dine in, White Bowl makes it extremely easy to enjoy their food at home. Every part of the pho is individually packaged so that you don’t have to worry about the veggies getting soggy or someone adding too much basil or jalapeno. They pack the protein in a tiny take out box, the broth in it’s own container, the separate fixings in a box, and even hoison and sriracha sauce. When your soup is the most popular item on the menu, you have to go out of your way to make it accessible like this, and White Bowl does a great job of it.
Vietnamese is still exotic cuisine in our area, and White Bowl is the only local restaurant specializing it, but you wouldn’t know that given how smoothly the restaurant has ingrained itself in the local food scene. White Bowl is a hip, welcoming restaurant with great food that just makes you feel good.
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White Bowl | 235 Enterprise Dr, Houma | (985) 262-4093