Earlier this week we highlighted the new Milwaukee Cupcake Company and discussed how the cupcake has usurped just about all its tasty rivals to become the dessert du jour.
If we had to pinpoint a savory equivalent to the trend, it would probably be pho, Vietnam's signature noodle soup. If sushi has become rather passe, as some have suggested, then perhaps the Vietnamese dish has replaced it as the hot new exotic menu item.
Pho has been popping up with increasing frequency in Milwaukee, including at the new Pho 43 and now on Monday nights at Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub.
Bay View's newest culinary addition, Hue Vietnamese Restaurant, is another new place for pho. Hue, which is pronounced "hway" and is located in Bay View at 2691 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., arrived in early May with a modern setting, unlike the more traditional decor of the city's other Vietnamese choices, such as Phan's Garden, Saigon or West Bank Cafe.
With brightly colored walls adorned with rich art works, the small restaurant (formerly and briefly Magic Dann's) feels fresh, clean and fun. Pop / rock music pumps through the speakers.
The menu here is isn't overwhelming, as can sometimes be the case with Asian restaurants. The dishes are written in Vietnamese, though the descriptions are in English. The fare is inspired by foods found in the central Vietnamese city of Hue, and although its flavors are often described as "complex" and "ornate," the food itself is very accessible with a delightful amount of spice and zest. Should you seem confused, the waitstaff is well-educated on the cuisine and is quick with suggestions and advice.
The pho comes with bean sprouts, mint, jalapeno and lime with hoison, soy and Siracha sauces provided on the tables. For now, all the choices come in a homemade beef broth, although a mushroom-based vegetarian version served with tofu and vegetables is coming soon.
Other menu options expand to noodle dishes, rice dishes and chef specialties, which will rotate occasionally. Co-owners Carina Tran and Mark V. Nielsen wisely chose to open the restaurant with a banh xeo specialty, a Vietnamese crepe of sorts filled with pork, shrimp, mushrooms, onions and bean sprouts, served with fresh herbs, cucumbers, peanut dipping sauce and traditional nouc mam (fish sauce.)
Because the restaurant is still so new, not everything listed on the menu is available yet, such as the bubble tea, a delicious drink found all too rarely in Milwaukee. Bubble tea is combination of fruits or teas blended together into a smoothie and poured over tapioca pearls, which come across as chewy little balls made from taro, a tropical plant. Trust us, it's divine.
Banh mi, Vietnamese sandwiches, are also on their way.
Hue is a good fit for the Bay View neighborhood; it's hip, energetic and something new that fills a gap in the market for the area. Even within its first month of opening, you get the sense it has significantly greater staying power than its short-lived predecessor.
Hue is open Tuesday through Sunday at 4 p.m. and serves food from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. The bar and lounge serve until 2 a.m.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”