Sometimes, the opinions of other people are fascinating. Take, for example, the Yelp presence of the newly opened Vo’s Vietnamese Restaurant in Uptown: It was totally polarized (at least as of last week) with three harshly negative reviews and two glowingly positive reviews. Is it “incredibly overpriced” and “a terrible experience” or worth being “highly recommended” by someone who “has been to a lot of the Vietnamese around the Twin Cites area” or “absolutely fantastic”?
Crowdsourcing is generally good for pointing toward a sensible consensus, so this kind of polarization usually indicates either a smear campaign or astroturfing. But upon examination — surprisingly — Vo’s doesn’t seem to be either a dud or a hidden gem. It’s a simple, unpretentious eatery with food priced appropriately for its hip locale (the former site of El Meson, at 35th and Lyndale).
You can find the equivalent of its pork banh mi ($6.50 with spring roll) on Nicollet Ave. or University Ave. for $4.50 or even less. It’s not a tremendously good sandwich — it lacks pate and is little more than lightly charred bits of pork on an insubstantial (but pleasantly crusty) roll along with some workaday pickled veggies. But it’s not a bad sandwich, either — we finished ours and enjoyed the experience. $6.50 may be a lot for a banh mi if location is no object (the angry Yelpers did seem to be primarily outraged by the question of value) but $6.50 is reasonable for an entree this close to Lyn-Lake. And while the spring roll wasn’t transcendent, it was pleasant. It tasted fresh (not gummy or stale as they so often do), with a fresh, herbal kick in balance with the shrimp’s mellow simplicity.
A plate of barbecue chicken on rice ($8.50) fell soundly short of our reigning favorite (the com ga nuong at IndoChin in St. Paul), lacking the rich texture, deep char, tender broken rice, and flavorful house nuoc cham dipping sauce of its rival. But it wasn’t terrible, not by a long shot. It was a bit too sweet, but pleasant overall, easygoing and comforting. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to write an angry rant about, either.
Steamed potstickers ($4.50) were similarly innocuous. They tasted fresh-from-the-plastic-bag, but not bottom-of-the-barrel, with forgettable mass-made wrappers and mild, pleasantly herbed filling. The accompanying hoisin sauce was too sweet and jammy to do much beyond overpowering the potstickers, but a dab of it did add some much-needed contrast.
The atmosphere at Vo’s is downmarket but comfortable and it’s hard to overstate the warmth of the proprietors, who went beyond “professionally attentive” and rose to the realm of being truly gracious hosts.
So, carry on, Vo’s — let the haters hate, and keep improving the food. Don’t take to heart your overcompensating fans.
Vo’s Vietnamese Restaurant
Vietnamese in Uptown, Minneapolis
3450 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
OWNER: Francois Vo
ENTREE RANGE: $7.50-12