Eat & Drink

Cafe Minh

4139 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA 70119

Restaurant Review

Anecdotes & Analysis

The best chefs working in exotic cuisines have an almost intractable problem: everybody who tries the restaurant for the first time walks in with the belief that their past experience with the cuisine will be duplicated. It throws them when it's different even in tiny details--even if the restaurant is much better than they're used to, as is the Vietnamese food at Cafe Minh. It's really a problem if the prices reflect increments in the pedigree of the raw materials. If this is you I'm describing, see if you can get past those blockades to your enjoyment of this uniquely fine Asian bistro.

Why It's Essential

This is the Commander's Palace of Vietnamese restaurants, bringing superb local foodstuffs and Creole flavors to bear on dishes based on--but not beholden to--the Asian palette. Although it looks like a neighborhood restaurant from the outside, it surprises first-timers with its sophistication and polish. Do not come here with the idea of getting a gallon of pho for five bucks.


Minh Bui left his native Vietnam in a boat with others trying to get to the United States in the 1970s. After time in a refugee camp, he made it. He turned up in New Orleans, worked as a waiter at Commander's Palace, and opened a series of restaurants (two Lemon Grass Cafés and 56 Degrees) before taking over the Katrina-flooded former Michael's Mid-City Grill and turning it into Cafe Minh. Chef Cynthia Tran--who had been in the kitchen not just here but in the downtown Lemon Grass Cafe--has been an equal force in the restaurant since day one.

Dining Room

It's bright, light, and designed with modern Asian themes. Panels of translucent panes allow light to move through and serve to block the wind when the front door opens. Tables are set beautifully, and the staff is omnipresent. Larry Nguyen, the maitre d', hews to standards of the gourmet bistro.

For Best Results

Leave your past experience in other Vietnamese restaurants behind. Cafe Minh is as much like them as bouillabaisse is like noodle soup.

Bonus Information

Attitude 1
Environment 2
Hipness 2
Local Color 1
Service 1
Value 1
Wine 1