One day as I was driving through Downtown Red Deer, I spotted a fancy sign in the southeast corner of 51 Avenue and 49 Street. A new restaurant! I took a mental photo and kept it on my must-try list.
Little Star Vietnamese Cuisine opened a few months ago. Yes, it took me a while to make my way there. It is in a high traffic area, though I wish there were windows on the 51 Avenue side because the restaurant jump out at you.
Upon entering, we noticed the renovation effort and how clean it looked. I definitely felt comfortable eating here.
Menus were dropped off promptly and we scanned the options. The dishes were only written in English as oppose to dual Vietnamese/English. Sometimes, that indicates the authenticity of the dishes as it speaks to the target audience.
I decided to have my usual vermicelli bowl. There was a list of options under the heading “Vermicelli Noodle Bowl” which basically consisted of different meats/combinations. I chose Charbroiled Beef on Noodles with 1 Roll. This is my go-to dish in a Vietnamese restaurant. I also requested no bean sprouts as usual – I grew up disliking the texture.
On first glance and sniff, I smiled as I knew that we were starting off on the right foot. I could see the charred surface on the beef and definitely noticed the BBQ odor.
I was also happy to see grounded peanuts. They are not always included, but in my opinion, are an essential contributor to the dish.
For this dish, you take the fish sauce-based broth on the side and pour it over the contents of the bowl. I requested another cup of broth right away as I typically require more than the initial offer. I believe you can always ask for it and I have yet to be charged a fee.
After pouring the broth over the contents, you would mix everything to obtain an even coating. The broth should not be filled to the brim like you would find in a wonton noodle soup. Thus, it is important to mix well. Plus, it allows you to eat a little bit of everything in every bite.
Upon lifting the bottom, I was disappointed to find bean sprouts. Luckily, the bean sprouts were largely confined to an area so I was able to remove 99% of them. The waitress did stop by to ask how things were so my wife told her about the mistake. She was apologetic and quickly offered to replace it. I appreciated the effort, but declined as it was not an allergy issue and I hate to see food wasted.
The charred flavor really came through in the beef. Unfortunately, this is not the norm so I am happy to see that Little Star Vietnamese Cuisine made the effort to grill their meat.
The combination of the pickled shredded carrots, lettuce, and cucumbers made this dish very light and refreshing in addition to adding a lot of pleasant texture. This helped balance the soft vermicelli noodles that served to absorb the fish sauce.
The egg roll was very crispy, yet decently packed with ingredients. I believe there was a little bit of meat and plenty of veggies in there. It was not greasy so I applaud them for frying the egg roll correctly.
I was definitely happy with this dish. I would recommend it for anyone who is looking to try Vietnamese food and consider this dish the first-step dish (akin to what the California Roll is to Japanese Sushi).
My wife ordered the Charbroiled Pork on Rice. This is one of her typical go-to dishes. She also requested a fried egg on the side.
Again, like my beef, the pork was nicely grilled and possessed a decent charred flavor.
The rice was cooked right with just the right amount of tender and still hold up to the chopstick (aside: how disappointing would it be if an Asian restaurant failed to cook rice properly?).
The egg was fried correctly and when broken apart, gave a smooth texture (slightly runny) to bind all the contents together.
As for the rest her dish, it was essentially mine with rice replacing the vermicelli (and different choice of meat).
My wife thought it was decent enough to warrant another visit, but craved the more traditional version of the dish which has a heavier herbaceous tone. It is understandable though as what was served was directed towards the western palate and as foreshadowed earlier, the menu was in English only.
Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Little Star Vietnamese Cuisine. The interior was clean and the dishes were decent. We hope word gets out so that the restaurant would do well.