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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 23, 2009

Ha Long serves flavorful pho with panache

 •  Hangover cure a la Alan Wong

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Owner Janice Nguyen recommends the watercress salad or barbecue sirloin pork slices and shrimp vermicelli at Ha Long Noodle House in Kalihi, which sports decor by German designer Tim John.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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3 out of 5 forks (Good)

City Square Shopping Center, 1286 Kalani St., off Dillingham Boulevard

845-3687, www.halongnoodle.com

Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

Prices: $5.95-$10.95

Details: Parking, BYOB

Recommended: Watercress salad, chicken salad, any bn dish, beef combination pho, fried rice

Payment: AmEx, MC, V

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ha Long's barbecue sirloin pork slices and shrimp vermicelli. Ingredients and presentation give Ha Long's standards an edge.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Pho fans will love the beef combination pho, a recommended dish, at Ha Long Noodle House.

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Just when you thought the pho field was full, with a new Vietnamese joint seeming to sprout in every vacated storefront, comes Ha Long Noodle House. Young owner Janice Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and raised in Kalihi, teamed up with her brother, Paul, to reinvent the pho hole-in-the-wall as a cool cafe.

Visiting German designer Tim John, who spent last summer in Honolulu, came up with a cheerful, Kelly-green room with cutouts of words like "fish," "rare beef steak" and "we love phonatics." A big aquarium separates the dining room from the kitchen. It's pho chic.

The biggest section of the shiny circular menus is pho get it with meatballs, "well done" brisket, "well done" flank, tendon, tripe or any combination thereof. There's also a thoughtful (and playful) "Wat da pho?" section, giving you a blow-by-blow on how to eat pho first taste the broth, then add the bean sprouts from the accompanying plate, squeeze in some lime.

While the broth could have more resonance maybe throw a few more bones into the simmering pot it's fragrant and not too heavy on the five-spice accent.

Rounding out the offerings are the usuals spring rolls, summer rolls, bn with barbecue pork, lemongrass chicken made from family recipes, according to Nguyen. And while they're not much different from anywhere else, where Ha Long Noodle stands out is with ingredients and presentation. The greens in the salad are perky and fresh. The watercress with thin slices of beef and a nice romaine salad with thin slices of roasted chicken are refreshing options and arrive on white plates ringed with tomato rounds.

The little squares of barbecue pork in the bn are lightly crisped on the edges and sit atop vermicelli (the nice, extra-thin rice noodles, not the spaghetti size found in some Vietnamese restaurants). And the lemongrass chicken, made of quality bird, is well spiced.

You might hear techno on the speakers, the service is relaxed and amicable and the parking is plentiful. And in these recessionary times, the prices are right.

Bac Nam is still my pick for best Vietnamese their menu takes you far afield from pho and bn but for the standards, Ha Long is an invitingly stylish change.


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    In return, Life Foundation urges its clients and their families, donors and friends to visit the restaurants. Already committed to participate are Big City Diner, Boots and Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen, Diamond Head Market and Grill, 12th Avenue Grill, Baci Bistro, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Cinnamon's, Hapa Grill, India Cafe, JJ Bistro & French Pastry, Le Guignol, Los Chaparros, Spices, Soul de Cuba Cafe, Tea at 1024 and The Wedding Cafe. For details, go to www.oahudines.org or call 521-AIDS, ext. 250.