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   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #489  (Vol. 10, No. 32)  This edition is for the week of August 3--9, 2009.

"Julie & Julia"  by Mike Smith
Manson at the Movies  by ED Tucker
Vietnam Town in Orlando  by Jason Fetters
Marvel Fatigue .... Attack Of Russell Brand .... Dune .... .... .... .... .... by Brandon Jones
Don't Read It, Just Sign It! .... Time To Calibrate? .... Cash For Clunkers .... Skynet? .... Best Time For A Divorce .... Free At Last .... .... by Brandon Jones
Say Goodbye To The Afl .... Who’s The Punk Now? .... No Takers On Vick Yet? .... Donte Stallworth Meets Goodell .... It’s Not Sports .... Rays On A Roll .... .... by Chris Munger
D T #58 .... Movie Notes .... Free Tex! .... Passing On .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... by Mike Smith
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Vietnam Town in Orlando

Paul and I started our journey to Orlando. We both went last year to visit J-Mart, a Japanese market, and another big Asian market just off International Drive. We also went looking for some Anime store that we never found.

That was over one year ago. I still haven't taken the chopsticks out of their plastic wrapper yet, that I bought on that trip.

This trip went much better but there was still some irony involved. I was up nice and early at 3am because of my work shift, which is 6am to 2:30pm, I'm always up early. Paul was sick or in the early stages of the flu and with swine flu being reported on tbo.com and on the news I wasn't sure if he was going to make it. I was determined to go. I have a few medical appointments next week and I wanted to take a day trip out of Tampa. Nothing major just a routine dental appointment and blood work.

Anyway, I called Paul a couple of times and finally get him around 9am. He finally showed up a little after 10:30 which was perfect because we would miss the lunch crowd. I wanted to go eat at Little Saigon restaurant, which got a glowing review from a local Orlando Magazine. I read some reviews from Chowhound.com and various Orlando tourists sites.

We sat out traveling North on Dale Mabry towards I-275. No major problems. Paul told me that since Publix started making real money in Britton Plaza, the Britton theater was going to open again. I've been going to the Britton all my life to see movies, and I always get down when it closes. Its closed a few times but somehow manages to keep coming back.

The trip to Orlando by car wasn't bad at all. No accidents, no signs of police sitting around conducting speed trips, and the traffic didn't really get bad until we were in Orlando in the downtown area.

I put together a CD of Vietnamese, Hong Kong, and Jpop music to get me in the mood. Paul didn't really like the V-pop. I guess its because I had Vietnamese friends in the early 90's and would go to Mekong's restaurant for karaoke that I got used to Vietnamese pop. Well, we all have different tastes.

I always drive 5 over the posted speed limit and I kept this up until I hit Downtown Orlando and then it was bumper to bumper slow traffic. I went to Google Maps before and the exit was 83B. We looked for 83B and there wasn't one. It went from just plain 83 to 84A. I turned around at 84A and got back on I4. That's something I never like to do, especially if I don't know the area around the interstate. No problems it was a nice neighberhood.

I decided to just look for Colonial Dr. I took a wrong turn at the Colonial exit and made a U-turn. Lots of U-turns on this trip. Finally I was heading towards Mills Ave. To see Vietnam Town you want to be at Colonial and Mills.

The restaurant, Little Saigon, was easy to spot and I just pulled in the back. We get inside. The waiter was nice but not that helpful. The service was OK. Paul had never had Vietnamese food before and I grew up on it. My friend owned a restaurant in Downtown St Pete on Central. Now it's a Thai restaurant called Chiang Mai's.

Anyway, I ordered Iced Jasmine Tea to drink and my favorite dish called Com Bo Nuong Bi Cha Trung, which is grilled strips of beef, shredded pork, meat cake (Vietnamese meatloaf,) and a fried egg over broken rice (smaller than Jasmine.) One trick I learned from my Vietnamese friends is to take Sriracha Hot Chile Sauce and just squeeze out a little amount on top of the rice. I use the tips of my chopsticks to blend the sauce into the rice so the rice because a nice red color. I love how the Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese aren't afraid to put sauces and spices on top of rice. In Japan its always white rice and people look at you funny if you put anything on it. To me that just makes the rice plain and boring. You can add Ochazuke (pickels) or various seaweeds over it at the end of the meal.

I like Japanese rice with sweetened Kombu on top for breakfast. Its quick, light, and gets you going. For Paul I advised him to get a popular dish called Pho Tai, which is rice noodles in a beef broth with sliced raw beef on top. The beef cooks in the broth. They always bring out fish sauce with carrots and another plate of raw bean sprouts, jalapeno peppers and mints. I like to eat the mints after I finish eating and just before leaving. It helps calm my stomach.

I taught Paul how to put together Pho. This is the way I like it. There are many ways. I add Sriracha hot sauce to the beef broth and mix it in. Then I add bean sprouts, a few mint leaves, and a couple jalapenos. Then I add a little dash of Hoisin (Chinese BBQ sauce,) to the broth and mix it in. Then I hold my chopsticks in my right hand eat the noodles, vegetables, meat, and use my left hand to hold a small soup spoon to drink the broth. I use both chopsticks and spoon all at the same time. You have to develop your own style for eating Pho. This is how I was taught back in 1991.

We did get one appetizer of fried spring rolls with shrimp. Not my favorite. I like uncooked Summer spring rolls the best. For dessert Paul had Strawberry Bubble Tea and I had Vietnamese Iced Coffee with condensed milk.

Tampa has better Vietnamese restaurants.

I went to Golden Phoenix on Dale Mabry and got the same dish I had at Little Saigon on Sunday afternoon and Golden Phoenix was much better. I even flirted with the cute waitress and told her how much better Golden Phoenix is compared to Little Saigon.

Golden Phoenix, 8199 N. Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33614. Just before Waters Ave traveling North.

Inochinois, 1912 S. Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, close to Hao Wah's.

Pho Quyen, 8404 Hillsborough Ave Tampa, at Memorial and Hillsborough, also a Fowler location, 2740 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, Near N 30th St. There's also a Pho Quyen at Dale Mabry and Waters close to Golden Phoenix.

All are better than Little Saigon. The above mentioned restaurants are all super cheap. Around $7 to $8 for a dinner.

The cream of the crop and somewhat pricey is Restaurant BT, 1633 W. Snow Ave., Tampa, FL, in Old Hyde Park. Bring your wallet to that place but it's nice.

The pho broth was ok, I've tasted better and my dish was average. Not a 5-star restaurant and nothing to go out of your way for.

Overall verdict of Little Saigon is 2 stars out of five, average.

After eating, Paul and I walked around Vietnam Town. Sadly some businesses are closing. We did find Vinh's Restaurant, an old established favorite that has to be better than Little Saigon. Bubble tea stands, karaoke bars, various gift shops, markets, and even a store devoted to anime and V-pop. That store had more of a variety for Vietnamese pop than I've seen at any other store. The markets were cool like Dong A's where we found German products and Phuoc Loc Tho Market at 2100 E. Colonial Dr. Both are big pan Asian markets. Phuoc Loc has a Vietnamese subway station that looked so good. Big cuts of beef hanging from hooks. Mmmmm.

Then we decided to drive around looking for Sci-Fi World which is really Sci-Fi City. According to Google, Sci-Fi World is on Mills near Fernway. We never found it. It's probably closed. There is a Sci-Fi City if you drive past Vietnam Town on Colonial.

I got lost on Mills and thought I was in a bad area than Paul pointed out all the expensive cars and homes and I felt safe. Bad areas do scare me somewhat in a different city like Downtown Orlando.

Around 6, with a quarter of a tank of gas left, we headed back home.

On Sunday Afternoon I went to Golden Phoenix and ordered the same thing I had for lunch at Little Saigon. Major difference at GP. There was a birthday party there and a lot of people. You couldn't move there. Two waitresses doing all the work. They apologized constantly. I have great patience at restaurants so I just blended in with the flow. Someone baby girl was having a party and the restaurant was hosting it. Big bins of cooked foods everyone. Lots of people talking. A big crowded happy place to be on Sunday. I always joke with the waitress. She always takes the time to joke around back with me. She even punches my arm after she says something funny. That's never happened to me before at Vietnamese restaurants.

After that I went to MD Oriental Market, 1106 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, near I-275. MD's is a nice clean place. Just like at Publix's aisles are marked. You don't have to roam around like at Dong A's. They had a Hong Kong BBQ station and the pork stomach looked really good. Very clean looking and live seafood inside MD's.

I haven't been to Oceanic in awhile. Its a big market but sometimes the cashiers are rude so that's why I haven't been back in awhile.

Din Ho Supermarket, 8502 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa, near Waters. It's still a nice market. Lots of variety there. I think you get better service and politeness from cashiers at Din Ho and MD's. Unless Oceanic has improved their hired help, it's not the best in the area.

Well, that does it for my weekend.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.