REVIEW: VIET BITES

 The tacos at Viet Bites have the perfect amount of crunch. 

The tacos at Viet Bites have the perfect amount of crunch. 

 

We’ve started to get a bit of a reputation as haters as far as the Denton food scene goes. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. Surely, our Monday morning What We Did posts exemplify how much our fat little selves like to eat in Denton. We figured we’d take some time to talk about a recently opened place that we dig quite a bit instead of complaining about BBQ for a while.

Anyway, Viet Bites opened down on S. Elm by Eagle at the beginning of this year. Our initial outings left us feeling pretty neutral about the place. The space and location were wonderful, but the food wasn’t as good as we had wanted it to be, but we didn’t give up. Heck, anything off the beaten path (AKA the square) deserves at least a second chance. We’ve gone back quite a few times since our initial outing, and sampled most of the menu.

It’s pretty simple. Pick a carb - noodle, rice, or French bread for banh mi, get a protein to throw on top of it and then (for some dishes) pick a sauce to pour on top. We’re gonna go out on a limb and say the best of the bunch is the banh mi. The noodle or rice bowls are great, especially with the ginger citrus sauce,  but can potentially suffer the same “build it yourself” fate that many felt at the hands of the late Ramen Republic. The banh mi, however, is delicious. We’re not sure we’d compare them to The Pickled Carrot standards yet, but we loved the freshly-baked bread with plenty of veggies to go on top. The Pickled Carrot doesn’t, however, have shrimp chips. The puffed shrimp-flavored crackers provide a nice crunch as a side to your banh mi experience - get the right sauce and you’ve got a great shrimp chip dip. Seriously, though, these things are worth obsessing over.

 The crab wontons are gooey gobs of deliciousness encased in a perfectly crunchy wrapper. 

The crab wontons are gooey gobs of deliciousness encased in a perfectly crunchy wrapper. 


Sponsor: 

 The Denton County Museum in the courthouse. Go check it out, it's free! 

The Denton County Museum in the courthouse. Go check it out, it's free! 


Honestly, Viet Bites had us at pho. Denton has long struggled with this Asian soup, and no one seems to have gotten it right yet.  Mr. Chopsticks has had pho on the menu, but doesn’t live up to the expectations of those densely Asian populated cities. The day Viet Bites opened, their pho immediately became the best in town. While we’re on the topic, though, can we as a society officially end the era of the pho pun? ‘Pho-king good,” “pho-get about it,” “pho-nominal,” these seem like rejects from a mid 90’s SNL sketch with Rob Schneider. They don’t make our taste buds yearn for broth and noodles at all. Let’s just stop it, folks. There are plenty of other pun-possible Asian words that we can work with. Anyway, Viet Bites has quite a few pho options, from a brothless pho to a couple of vegan options, so there’s something for everyone. The noodles are nice and thick, and never soggy.

  Photo by Naomi Wood

Photo by Naomi Wood

Viet Bites is best when they get weird with it. The off-menu specials keep us enticed and begging for more. The taco appetizer exemplifies this perfectly. It’s not anywhere on the menu, but 9 times out of 10 its in the list of specials your waiter will describe to you. Four crunchy tacos with your choice of protein adorn a plate covered in a Vietnamese salad. They’ll be gone before you know it. But the steamed buns are where it's at - especially if you happen to be there on a day when they have them with pork belly. Why these aren't on the normal menu, we have no idea. We have dreams about the pillowy-soft bun and the salty brunch of the pork belly and pickled veg inside and we have to stop now because we've got too much drool going on.

The Shaken Ribeye is also quite tasty. It’s cubed pieces of well cut ribeye, tossed around in a generous portion of Vietnamese spices with a side of veggies. The meat was tender and moist, and the flavors perfectly balanced.

Desserts at Viet Bites are things of dreams. Plenty of traditional Vietnamese treats with a little Texas-zing along with ‘em. The coconut and pandan waffle exemplifies that sentiment perfectly. It’s a waffle flavored with coconut and the sweet, flavorful Asian plant, pandan. The pandan gives it a wonderful vibrant green color and did we mention it’s in the shape of Texas? Even better are the crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside beignets. Get ‘em with nutella and they’ll give Cafe Du Monde a run for their money. The shaved ice fruit bowl is even more interesting. It’s basically a really good snow cone with fresh fruit, ice cream and sweetened-condensed milk drizzled on top. The texture combinations are what really drive this dish home. The crunchy shaved ice on top of the ice cream will have you yelling at your local snow cone dealer to start pedaling Blue Bell if they don’t already. The fried bananas a la mode are the perfect ending to a well balanced meal, too.

All in all, we’d like to see Viet Bites shake things up a little more as far as their menu goes, we want some of their “specials” to make a permanent appearance on their menu. It’s obvious they have the expertise in the kitchen to handle more authentic Vietnamese items and we can’t wait to see what they still have hiding up their sleeves. All in all, it seems that the little green shack on Elm has had a warm embrace from a community full of people with international taste buds.