We are all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but some New Jersey towns are more Irish than others. (more…)
Pleasantville, NJ 08232
- Cost: $$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Public Lot
- Take Out: Yes
September 6, 2013
For nine years, Pleasantville’s “Noodle Soup House” has been serving some of the best traditional Vietnamese dishes in New Jersey.
Thomas Vu was not planning to open a restaurant. He settled in Atlantic County in 1991, joining a brother who had emigrated from Southern Vietnam a decade earlier. While working at an Atlantic City casino, Thomas noticed an empty space in the back of a Pleasantville strip mall anchored by an Asian supermarket. Vu seized the opportunity and opened Hủ Tiếu Miền Tây.
Doug and Louisa of Louisa’s Cafe in Cape May (big Vietnamese food fans) were the first to tip me off about this hidden gem. To find the restaurant, hop off the Parkway at Exit 37. Next to a Kmart, enter the Pleasantville Shopping Center under the “Asian Mall” sign. At the end of the hallway past the Chinese supermarket is the simple, cafeteria-style restaurant with about seventy seats.
My wife and I visited Hủ Tiếu Miền Tây for the first time on the Fourth of July (the first stop in our Atlantic County Vietnamese food tour). We started with bánh xèo, a shrimp and pork pancake appetizer. The huge, crispy omelet that quickly arrived on our table is stuffed with bean sprouts, pork slices and cooked shrimp. Break off a piece, wrap it in a lettuce leaf, and dunk it in the small bowl of clear fish sauce (nuoc mam) placed on the table. Each delicious bite is simultaneously soft, crunchy, salty, sweet, warm and cool – the contrasting elements that distinguish Vietnamese cooking.
Since the menu translates Hủ Tiếu as “White Noodle Soup,” I ordered that next. The large bowl of sautéed beef white noodle soup (Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho) has thin rice noodles (vermicelli), carrots, fresh cilantro and chunks of beef in a rich broth. The broth is exceedingly flavorful, no doubt because the beef is still attached to plenty of fat and cartilage. The meat is soft enough to pull right off with chopsticks if you are not into offal. My wife ordered one of her favorite Vietnamese dishes – fried spring rolls and barbecued pork atop a pile of vermicelli (Bún Chả Giò Thit Nướng). The spring rolls here are excellent – paper thin, crispy rice paper wrappings filled with chopped pork and shrimp. We finished the meal with cups of strong, hot Vietnamese coffee, sweetened with condensed milk. Bánh Mì, the popular Vietnamese French baguette sandwiches, are also on the menu at Hủ Tiếu Miền Tây, and they are excellent.
Vu runs the front of the house and his wife, Ha, from Central Vietnam near Hue, does the cooking. According to Thomas, their customers are diverse; the food attracts more than just local diners from the large Vietnamese community in South Jersey . It’s a good thing my wife and I arrived early for lunch, because by noon on the holiday weekend, every table was filled. Our bill totaled less than $35.
Hủ Tiếu Miền Tây ranks high among New Jersey’s best Vietnamese restaurants; it’s our favorite among the Atlantic City cluster of Vietnamese spots.
Hủ Tiếu Miền Tây
Pleasantville, NJ 08232