883 W. Eisenhower Pkwy
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Phone: (734) 930-1988
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10pm;
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the best things about Ann Arbor is the diversity of dining experiences available. Indeed, I know little about Vietnamese cuisine, but I was excited to try VKitchen off Eisenhower in the Colonnade Shopping Center.
My vegetable-aversive tween was not excited though. When I relayed we were trying VKitchen and teased that the V stands for Vegetable, he uttered a phrase that basically came out to an unintelligible whine: “Nnnnnh.”
Actually, the V stands for three things: authentic Vietnamese recipes, a pair of chopsticks central to the Vietnamese dining experience, and the economic victory of a business that triumphed despite all odds. VKitchen opened last year in the spot previously occupied by Paradise Asian Cuisine.
V is for Variety
The menu proffers appetizers, like spring rolls, and various incarnations of the Vietnamese staple Banh Mi sandwich. There are Pho and Noodle soup combinations, vermicelli dishes, rice platters and special dishes like a traditional Vietnamese crepe. VKitchen also offers many vegan and vegetarian dishes.
There is no kid’s menu, but our server commented that kids usually like Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, or fried rice. My daughter, 9, ordered the shrimp fried rice with bean sprouts, carrot and egg ($11). My son chose the beef fried rice ($11), without bean sprouts and carrot (of course!) They also got smoothies—mango for my daughter, watermelon for my son ($4).
I picked the Vermicelli Combo Bowl ($12) with grilled shrimp, pork and egg rolls atop vermicelli noodles with lettuce, sprouts, cucumber, peanuts, onions, pickled carrots and daikon. My husband selected Spicy Beef Noodle Soup ($12) with lemon grass, pork, beef shank, Vietnamese-style bologna, cilantro, onion, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint and cabbage.
V is for Volume
It took nearly twenty minutes to browse the menu and place our order, but our meals were ready in five minutes. We had barely started our drinks. The kids’ smoothies made with real fruit were delicious and creamy. My husband’s Thai iced tea was too creamy for his taste. I happily finished it.
A copious amount of fried rice was delivered to the table. Younger kids could share one plate. “It’s really good. I love it,” said my son, not missing the vegetables. My daughter agreed about her shrimp version. I sampled both and found them light and flavorful, not oily. My husband tried it, too.
“This is some of the best fried rice I’ve ever had,” he commented.
Meanwhile, my giant bowl of vermicelli delighted. The room temperature noodles surprised me, but proved the perfect mild backdrop to complement sweet pork, sliced egg roll with tasty sausage, and grilled shrimp. Cucumber and daikon added crunch.
My husband’s soup was pleasingly spicy. He devoured the big bowl swimming with noodles and meat.
Our culinary adventure through Vietnam ended with desserts. We sampled sweet flan, Vietnamese banana ice cream, and coconut jelly. The ice cream, slices of banana frozen in cream and coconut, was our favorite. The coconut jelly was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten: slightly gelatinous, cold coconut water with chunks of coconut flesh. I like coconut and found it yummy and fascinating at the same time.
VKitchen is decorated in a black and white color scheme with a dozen or so tables and booths offering seating under a dramatic chandelier framed by mirrored walls.
“I would definitely come here again,” commented my son. “You can write that down.”
The Short Course
To avoid wait: Try before 7 on Friday and Saturday nights or go during the week
Noise level: Moderate, even when crowded
Bathroom amenities: No changing tables
High chairs? Yes, as well as booster seats
Got milk? Soymilk, plus drinks like smoothies, soft drinks, limeade, orange and coconut juice
Kids’ menu? No, but try the fried rice or noodle soup
Anything healthy for kids? Skip anything creamy or fried and pick dishes loaded with veggies
Food allergy concerns? You will want to call ahead and/or speak with your server to make sure the restaurant can accommodate your needs