It may be a new restaurant, but it comes from a veteran restaurant family. Sitting pretty on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Em Que Viet opened this summer, signaling that a new generation was ready to add their voice to the conversation about Vietnamese food.
1332 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-330-4363
It all started while getting ready for the State Fair, as three family members were making the scene-stealing egg rolls on a stick. Lauren Le, Maria Nguyen, and Brianna Le had a vision to open a newer, sexier version of their family’s 43-year-old restaurant.
Em has multiple meanings in Vietnamese. Depending on the context, it might mean “little brother or sister,” it might mean “baby,” or it could be used as a term of endearment. Here, the ladies consider the restaurant the younger, sassier, trendier sister to Que Viet, and she’s ready to shine.
Lauren’s son Kyle is the mastermind behind the cocktail menu. The drinks use traditional Southeast Asian ingredients to boost the classics. The Lychee Hibiscus Clementine Martini is a perfectly balanced sweet and tangy sip.
Bánh Xèo (pronounced “bon sayo,” which is important because it’s an onomatopoeia) means “sizzling pancake,” and it’s supposed to invoke the sound of the batter hitting the hot pan.
You’re supposed to eat it hot from the sizzling pan. It’s served with scissors so that you can snip the pancake, wrap the bite in a lettuce leaf, and dunk it into the clear but brightly flavored nu´Ó´c ch ´âm (“nook chum”) sauce made from chilies, lime, garlic, and fish sauce.
While many assume the savory crepe came to Vietnam with the French colonizers, it actually predates them. Made with rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric, it’s truthfully closer to an Indian dosa.
Yes, you can get the egg rolls here too. Also, the State Fair cheese wontons. Chef Dat Le credits those 40-year-old-family-recipe egg rolls with the success of the restaurant.
November 17, 2022