We know. It’s hot. It’s summer in Oklahoma. Cool down by sampling cocktails that local bars and restaurants have concocted just for you. Find a nice, air conditioned space or a shaded patio and while away the hours drinking the flavors of summer. You might decide it’s not that bad after all.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock, Shannon Cornman and Lauren Hamilton
There are a wealth of new local eateries cropping up in the metro and even more coming. If they’re not on your radar, they should be. From the comfy atmosphere at The Barrel on Western Avenue to the laid-back vibe at the Plaza District’s coffee shop, you might find a new regular hangout.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
What works: Good prices on a variety of Vietnamese and other Asian dishes.
What needs work: Keeping goons like me from ordering too much food.
Tips: Skip the lunch specials and get the pho or the glass noodles. Very tasty.
Let’s just get the big question out of the way first. It’s pronounced “Seven.” It’s VII Asian Bistro.
And its fare is tempting and unique. I wish I could claim to be an expert in all things Vietnamese. For one thing, I could probably get a pretty sweet job teaching the language and history classes. But also, I wouldn’t feel like such a goon ordering dishes off of menus at OKC’s many ethnic restaurants.
The number seven in Asian culture represents togetherness. Here, I’ll definitely need help from my friendly waitress.
Ah, the venue’s name already makes more sense.
“Uh ... I’ll have the pho?” I asked the nice waitress.
“Which one?” she asked patiently of the popular soup dish.
“Buh ... one with meat, please.” See? Goon. And I’m probably goonier than usual at VII, because they have a fairly extensive pho menu.
All your old favorites are there, but I saw some new combinations I wasn’t familiar with.
So, I had the Pho Chin Nam Ve Don ($7.99 for a regular, which is all you need). Pho with lean brisket and crunchy flank steak. Uh, yeah. I had that. The pho itself was pretty clean. Not the depth of flavor or seasoning I’ve had elsewhere, but it was a wide-open expanse to dress with my own splash of rooster sauce and basil and jalapeños.
By the time I was done, the broth was a lovely pink and the noodles were probably terrified there was a pho shark on the loose or something.
As it cooled, the broth didn’t get that mealy, congealed texture I’ve had elsewhere. It was a nice surprise, and I’ll certainly be heading back again as the weather cools down.
While not Vietnamese (this is an Asian bistro, remember), the Dan Dan Noodles ($9.99) were not as sweet (that’s a good thing) as the those you’d find at a Pei Wei Asian Diner or P.F. Chang’s, but had bigger chunks of chicken and a more fiery sauce.
I think the Vietnamese Egg Rolls (two for $2.99) were very Vietnamese, but I only say that because it’s in the name. These were better-than-average egg rolls — a light, crispy wrapper around a rich blend of pork and veggies. They were a touch greasy but well worth wiping your hand on your napkin.
I also was grabbed by the crab wontons ($5.99), which had a fluffy, mildly crispy outer shell and hid a creamy blend of crab, bell peppers and scallions. Did I eat all these myself? Did you see me share? Then why are we having this conversation again, Deborah? You know I’m weak.
Ahem. Apologies. My issues with Deborah are not the issue.
The Com Bi Thit Nuong ($7.99) was pieces of grilled pork, thinly shredded fried pork skin and a sunny-side up egg on top of rice. It was a Choose Your Own Adventure dish, which could be eaten in pieces or combined as a whole. The pork was flavorful and tender.
I recommend this for beginners or people who are easily frightened.
The Hu Tieu Tom ($7.99) was not frightening, but that’s because shrimp and glass noodles in broth was an old family friend growing up. We lived.
We laughed. We loved. And when it came time, I ate Hu Tieu Tom — frankly, I should have done that sooner; he was delicious. Haha.
Similar to the pho, you’ll need to dress the glass noodle (Chinese vermicelli) dishes with your own seasonings, but it’s easy to find a mix you enjoy.
VII Asian Bistro is clean, it’s quick and the staff are friendly.
Even if you’re a goon who orders too much food, like me.