WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The name means “three regions,” and reveals a subtle aspect of the menu here. It draws from the cooking traditions of all parts of Vietnam, and includes a few specialties not encountered in other local Vietnamese restaurants. The restaurant is a bit more accessible than most Vietnamese places in the east to non-Asians: it’s at the corner of Michoud Boulevard and Chef Menteur Highway.
For the most part the customers here slurp up the pho noodle soups like they do everywhere else. These are well-made, with a broth more assertive in its flavors than most. The kitchen has abilities far beyond soup-making, however. The shrimp dishes are especially good. No surprise there: Vietnamese people are among the most adept shrimpers in Louisiana. They also perform the fascinating beef and vinegar fondue dishes at the tables.
Mai Nguyen opened Ba Mien in 2001 in the lively Vietnamese community in New Orleans East. Like everything else out there, the restaurant was ruined by Hurricane Katrina. The eye, 120-mph winds and the storm surge went right over the restaurant. Astonishingly, the people came right back. A couple of months after the storm. I learned that Ba Mien was back open. (I believe it was the first Chef Menteur restaurant to do so.) Mai built a new building, including a reception hall, and became an anchor in the community.
A rare case among Asian restaurant: the exterior looks a little better than the dining room–which nevertheless is as pleasant a Vietnamese place as I know. Many tables are arranged in the community configuration, allowing large groups to sit together.
»Spring rolls with pork and/or shrimp
»Vietnamese egg rolls (pork, shrimp, crab, rice paper wraping)
»Pho (beef noodle soup) with round steak, flank steak, brisket, soft tendon, tripe, skirt steak, meatballs, or any combination
Meatless noodle soup
Noodle soup with chicken and shredded chicken
»Hue style hot and spicy beef noodle soup
»Bun (cool vermicelli with grilled pork, lemon grass beef, mini-eggrolls, grilled shrimp, snails, crabmeat or any combination)
Clear noodle soup My Tho style
»Steamed rolls with grilled pork, fried onion, green onion, minced pork, pork pie, grilled pork paste or shrimp
Pressed vermicelli cake with grilled pork chop, shredded pork skin, pork chop, egg cake, grilled shrimp, roasted chicken, lemon grass chicken, beef flank steak, stir-fried beef and vegetables,
House special fried rice
»Nem Noung Khanh Hoa (grilled pork patties, lettuce, green banana, mango, mint, cucumber, pickled carrot, rice paper and special sauce)
»Marinated sliced beef fondued in a sweet vinaigrette broth, served with lettuce, mint, cucumber, pickled carrot, rice paper and sauce (options: shrimp and squid)
Medium-rare sliced beef, lemon juice, onion, lime, mint, herbs, nuoc mam sauce
Beef flank steak with lettuce and sliced fresh tomato
»Seafood delight salad
»Snails with mint
»Hot and sour shrimp or fish soup
Asparagus and crab soup
»Catfish simmered in hot pot
Crispy fried squid
Seafood with assorted vegetables
Shrimp with broccoli
»Mussels with chili sauce
Shrimp and squid with tofu
Beef with chinese broccoli
Beef with broccoli
Lemon grass chicken
Pork simmered with tofu
»House special beef soup in hot pot
Combination of meat and seafood with soup in hot pot
»Vietnamese hot and sour seafood soup in hot pot
FOR BEST RESULTS
They keep traditional hours here: eight in the morning until seven at night. Pho is what is traditionally eaten for breakfast. Other times, it seems to me the best approach is to move beyond pho to sample the most ambitious dishes. Of course, the Chinese dishes are there primarily for people who haven’t explored Vietnamese tastes yet.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I’ve had much better meatballs in other Vietnamese places.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open some holidays
- Dinner ends early (8 p.m.)
- Open all afternoon
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Whoever did the artwork for the menu, logo, and website is very talented.