Vietnamese Restaurant (2004)
Oishii mixes Japanese and Vietnamese with a little Chinese. The latter two are closely linked, while the former is more distant. Does this sound confusing? It shouldn't. OK, sushi is a little hard to square with kung pao chicken. There's lemongrass tofu, too, which is hard to square with anything. Yet the sushi is good. And the pork ribs in spicy salt and shaken beef are stellar, as are the Vietnamese spring rolls. But pho, that ceremonial, aromatic soup that's ladled for every meal among the Vietnamese, is how you test the spine of Vietnamese fare. And it's here where Oishii goes over the top. When pho is good, it's all minimalist guts and glory, the Dalai Lama of soups. Slurping pho is like having your soul breast-fed. Pho is loaded with feathery hints of lushly sweet aromas and carnivore brawn. Tangled there among slick and supple rice noodles are square scraps of beef as thin as pounded sheet metal plus beef tendon as tender as noodles (you can get it in chicken duds, too). From a separate plate heaped high with green and white flora, you add cilantro clippings, dark green basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeos and squirts from lime wedges. Pho is sense-surround soup: You breathe in billowing gusts of perfumed steam while spray stings your wrists from the splashes of noodles, sprouts and beef slipping off the spoon as you try to cram its addictive warmth into your mouth. Can your kung pao do that?
Green Papaya Cafe
3211 Oak Lawn Ave.
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