My dinner at Hue in Houston, Texas ranks high on my list of anti-climatic dining experiences. When it comes to eating out, I like my food to be flavorful, authentic and not overpriced; I care about the quality of the food, not about a chic trendy atmosphere. Hue claims to be a Vietnamese restaurant but they hardly have any Vietnamese dishes on the menu, and the ones they do have, the chef cannot make properly. Hue got the big thumbs down from me; however, my husband (who didn’t order Vietnamese food) raved about his meal so we’ll give the chef two stars for impressing someone that nowadays will eat just about anything – sorry honey but your standards have slipped.
We made a booking through Open Table but as it turns out the reservation was not necessary despite it being a Saturday night – seemingly the most popular night for restaurants – because hardly anyone was there. That alone speaks volumes and I can only assume that others have had similar experiences to mine; hence, the lack of crowds.
Our waitress was friendly but not very experienced and it showed. The décor is chic, classy and subtle but not overly fancy. The exterior of the menu felt like suede and the couch I sat on was extraordinarily comfortable – all good signs, but I was there for the Vietnamese food not the decor.
For our appetizers I ordered the Hue Spring Rolls – the stereotypical Vietnamese spring roll – and my husband had the Imperial Roll (aka fried spring rolls).
Hue Spring Rolls
I received four spring rolls for $8 and although this might seem like good value, the rolls were hardly edible so it was poor value to me. The chef left the tails on the shrimp but wasn’t smart enough to have the tails stick out of the rice paper, so I could not see them; no instead I nearly choked on shrimp tails when I took a bite.
The rice paper was not cooked – come on now, all you have to do is dip the rice paper in hot water for 30 seconds, anyone could do this – and I came to the conclusion that the chef was more concerned about the appearance of the spring roll than the actual taste. To make matters worse the requisite fish/hot chili sauce was not served as an accompaniment, but rather a glob of extremely spicy paste topped the small bowl of peanut sauce. Tisk-tisk.
My husband on the other hand was intoxicated by his fried spring rolls, but then again it could have been the two beers he had that intoxicated him. Perhaps I should start drinking alcohol with my meals to make me think the food tastes better. He was served four small imperial rolls for $7. My husband thought the imperial rolls were very crispy but I thought they looked greasy. He was going to eat two at the restaurant and take the other two rolls home, but he said those little things were so good that he couldn’t put them down. Oink, oink. I’m glad someone enjoyed their appetizer.
Just as we started to dig into our appetizers (which took a long time to receive despite being simple dishes), our entrees arrived. Hello? What is the point of having an appetizer if it is going to be served at the same time as the entrée? Not only was this stupid on the part of the chef, it was rude of the waitress not to even apologize or acknowledge this faux pas. Did she think this was normal? How could we enjoy our hot appetizers when they were just going to get cold while we ate our entrees? This really frustrated us and showed just how inexperienced the staff at Hue was.
I was looking for something authentic but the only thing I could find that resembled Vietnamese food was the Hanoi Noodles ($10) which normally comes with pork but I requested shrimp. This substitution was not free; they charged me $4 for it – $4 that would have been better spent elsewhere. My meal should have been served in a bowl but it came out on a flat plate with the dry noodles in one corner, the shrimp and bean sprouts (in a small bowl) in the middle, and a separate plate with mint twigs, cilantro twigs, and lettuce. The chef couldn’t even be bothered to remove the herbs from their twigs – talk about lazy. I had no room in which to mix everything – including the sweet chili/fish sauce – so I dumped the shrimp out and put some of the noodles in the small bowl. This didn’t work out well since I had no room for anything else.
I was stumped and even more perplexed when my husband’s entrée (which did not require a bowl) came out in a curved plate. They obviously screwed up big time. And the straw that broke my appetite was the shrimp; they were hard, difficult to chew, had no flavor, and I didn’t even have a knife in which to cut the tails off. I had literally lost my appetite over this meal and couldn’t eat another morsel. I got so worked up about things that I literally got sick. Hue owes me a night of relaxation with my husband because they ruined a perfectly good evening.
So my meal was a disaster but my husband’s turned out to be one of the best he’s ever had – I can only assume we had different chefs; either that, or he really is at the point where he’ll eat anything. My husband ordered the Shaking Beef which was served in a wine sauce. His beef was described as tender, and it must have been full of flavor because he ate the entire thing. I guess he got his $18 worth but that’s a high price tag for so-called Vietnamese food. There was nothing Asian about it if you ask me.
I loved the seating at Hue but a cushion alone is not worth such a horrible, overpriced meal. Hue is located in River Oaks at 3600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098. Their phone number is 713- 526-8858.