Sherman's Food Adventures: Hải Phòng

Hải Phòng

Here is another ol' favourite of mine that I just really haven't gotten a chance to revisit as of late.  I've been to Hải Phòng on Kingsway many times over the years.  Whether it be with the family or with friends, it was a dependable spot for Vietnamese fare.  Well, things have changed as the next generation has taken over and there have been some subtle renovations to the dining space.  Well, there have been some changes to the menu as well, hence, we were invited to try a wide range of dishes.

Before we get to the sexier items, there is nothing wrong with the classics.  We had the Spring Rolls first and yes, this was prepared with wheat wrapper rather than rice paper.  However, it is really personal choice as to which wrapper is used.  These were really good with an almost fluffy texture beyond the initial light crunch from the exterior side of the wrapper.  The filling was airy, but not crumbly.  It was sweet and had the unmistakable brininess of fish sauce.

One of the more interesting dishes of the meal was the Lotus Salad with lotus rootlets, carrots, shrimp, pork, fried onions cilantro and peanuts with fish sauce.  Without looking at the menu description, I was expecting the usual lotus root slices, but being rootlets, it was a totally different experience.  I really enjoyed the crunch and juiciness of salad as well as the ample amount of meat (who doesn't like meat in their salad???).  Add in the fish sauce, then there was also the usual sweet salty brininess that helped whet our appetites.

Whenever we have a chance to order wings, we do so!  Thus, we got the Garlic Butter Chicken Wings served with lemon pepper dip.  This was a large portion and a great value especially for only $11.95.  Not only that, the wings were also very good!  Beyond the crispy batter we found juicy and moist meat inside.  The quick toss in garlic butter made things rather aromatic and of course buttery.  The aggressive amount of black pepper added much more bite to the dip.

So one of my favourite items was actually a last minute add on to our order.  The Chinese Sausage Omelette was exactly like its description.  It was scrambled egg and sliced Chinese sausage with some white onion and green onion.  As simple as this was, it was super delicious and aromatic.  Naturally, the fats from the sausage as well as the copious amount of oil used to fry this up in the hot wok created lots of umaminess and crispy textures.

For some reason or another, I've had a few versions of Banh Khot lately.  Whether it be from Banh Mi Tres Bon or Pho 101, there has been big differences between them.  The one here at Hải Phòng was much more robust with lots of coconut milk creaminess and density.  It was aromatic and featured a firmly crunchy bottom shell.  It was also sweeter and had more seasoning in general.  Nice large half shrimp on top.

I guess we couldn't ignore the more classic soup noodles such as the Phở Dặc Biệt and the Bún Riêu.  I found the pho broth to be fairly meaty, yet with a clean taste.  It wasn't salty per se, but it did have enough flavour.  Noodles were al dente while the meats were plentiful.  As for the Bún Riêu, it also had a clean and sweet flavour.  I actually prefer this one over the popular one at Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen since it wasn't as "porky".

Staying with the theme of soup, we had the majestically served Vietnamese Hot & Sour Soup.  Loaded with prawns, fresh pineapple, bean sprouts, tomato, okra, taro stem and topped with fried garlic and herbs, this was a meal in itself.  The tamarind broth was pleasantly sour and sweet.  It also had a balanced spiciness that made for a wealth of flavours.  This was one of my favourite dishes of the meal.

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive with the Vietnamese-Style Beef Sashimi as it didn't appear to be very tender.  However, I was very wrong about this.  The beef was buttery soft while the dressing did the heavy lifting.  It had sweetness, acidity, saltiness and aromatics.  As much as there seemed to be a really unbalanced ratio of meat-to-sauce, it really wasn't.  Every piece of beef was completely seasoned.

Back to something more standard in the Lemongrass Chicken & Pork Chop with fried egg on rice.  As you can see, this was a very generous portion of food with beautifully charred meats.  Hence, there was a certain smokiness and caramelization going on.  Yet, the meats were still tender and succulent.  They were also marinated well with flavours throughout.  Broken rice was great too being chewy and slightly dry.

Another super delicious item we had was something that was off-menu.  Sure, they had the Vermicelli Sheets with various proteins, but not the beef short rib.  However, I assure, you, this can be ordered regardless.  These sheets were made from vermicelli noodles, which were texturally appealing.  Fluffy and slightly chewy, the noodles complimented the caramelized short rib in the lettuce wraps were constructed.  Fun and delicious dish!

As if we hadn't already experienced some bold and mouth-watering flavours already, we then got to try the Vietnamese Braised Pork & Fish.  This was also a custom dish as both proteins are usually separate, but we combined both for this one.  Oh man, the intense caramelization of the sauce created rich sweetness complimented by intense savouriness.  This was so good with white rice!  The pork was super tender with some appealing firmer parts while the fish was cooked through but still delicate.

Now here was the dish we were waiting for - the Tamarind Crab!  Yes, this live crab was cooked to perfection while tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce.  I've never had crab prepared this way before and I wish I did sooner!  Such intense flavours that we normally do not get in Cantonese prepared crab.  So in general, this meal reintroduced me to the classics, yet at the same time, exposed me to some dishes I've yet to try.  They were so appealing and full of flavour.  Will need to come back sooner than later.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Has all of the usual dishes but also many unique ones you don't normally see
- Intense flavours
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Not a fan of that parking lot as it can get pretty full


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