Z Asian

Written By Scott Joseph On June 8, 2023

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When I attended the Michelin Award ceremony in Miami last month, I was surprised to see only one Orlando restaurant, Z Asian, serving food at the reception on the concourse of LoanDepot Park, where the event was held. Then again, seeing as how this was Miami’s gig – Orlando hosted last year at the Ritz-Carlton; they’ll be in Tampa next year – perhaps it was unusual to have even one Central Florida participant.

And the area was well represented by the staff of Z Asian and its owners, Hien Q. Pham and his wife and the restaurant’s chef Huong Nguyen, who operated a food station overlooking third base. Z Asian was invited because it is a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand restaurant, two years in a row. Bib Gourmand, named for the Michelin tire mascot whose name is Bibendum, designates “good food at a good price.”

The next day, while driving back to Orlando, I was mulling over some choices to go for dinner with some friends that evening. I thought of Z Asian and said, “Why not?” I hadn’t been since the restaurant first opened in 2019, replacing Mai Bistro in the Mills 50 District. And as it turns out, the menu has changed quite a bit.

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Pho 813

Written By Scott Joseph On March 24, 2022

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Pho 813, a Millenia-area outpost of a restaurant out of Tampa (hence the 813), doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, sitting between a Chipotle and a Zöe’s Kitchen in a small outbuilding in front of a SuperTarget, Pho 813’s facade looks rather bland.

But inside is bright and pleasant, and so were the staff when I visited. Even better: the food was all quite good.

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Viet-Nomz Downtown

Written By Scott Joseph On February 11, 2021

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February 11 is Lunar New Year Eve, the celebration by Asian countries of the beginning of another calendar cycle and the beginning of spring. Each year of the Asian calendar is represented by an animal. This year is the year of the ox, or buffalo.

Last year, by the way, was the year of the rat, which so sums up 2020.

In Vietnam, the New Year celebration is called Tet, so I thought it might be a good time to try out Viet-Nomz’s new ghost kitchen operation west of downtown Orlando.

Actually, I came to visit the new operation circuitously. I was looking for another restaurant that had a West Pine Street address, but when I got there, no restaurant could be seen. Talk about a ghost kitchen. As I circled the block to head back home, I passed Dollins Avenue. That sounded familiar, so I pulled over and soon found that I’d seen the address in a post by Viet-Nomz.

I pulled into the parking lot at 18 N. Dollins Ave., searched for Viet-Nomz on my phone and placed my order online. It was simple, intutitve, I was able to prepay, with a tip, and when I finalized the order I received a text message saying it had been received and telling me to stay in my car until it was ready. It’s like they knew I was sitting right outside. Eerie.

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P’s VietMí Café

Written By Scott Joseph On December 15, 2020

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Maybe it’s just me, but when I see a place called P’s VietMí Café I have questions. First, who or what is P? And what is VietMí? The café part I was able to figure out on my own.

But the other two questions remain a mystery. A young man who answered the phone at the south Orlando restaurant, which opened earlier this year, seemed perplexed that I would even ask such questions, as though no one had ever inquired before. P? It’s just the name of the restaurant. Nope, not someone’s initial; it’s just P’s.

As for my other Q, it’s called VietMí because it’s a Vietnamese restaurant. I could almost here the silent “duh!” in his response.

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Phoresh

Written By Scott Joseph On May 28, 2020

Phoresh pho

Just before all corona hell broke loose,back in March, I visited Phoresh, a “noodles and street fare” cafe in East Orlando. Ironically, I ordered my food for takeout. Had I known what was about to happen, I might have stayed to savor a final dine-in experience. But since we’re focusing these days on the takeout experience, I thought I might as well tell you about Phoresh now.

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Paris Bahn Mi

Written By Scott Joseph On December 3, 2019

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Paris Banh Mi Cafe Bakery has opened in a spacious corner spot in the Mills 50 District. And as its name suggests, it’s a combination French patisserie and Vietnamese eatery.

It was a banh mi – the distinctly Vietnamese sandwich – that brought me to the little shop. But it was the display of pastries that made the first impression.

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Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen

Written By Scott Joseph On August 6, 2019

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Z Aisan Vietnamese Kitchen is one of the latest to join the Mills 50 lineup of eateries in what is historically the center of the city’s Asian community. For a long time, each new Vietnamese restaurant that opened in the area seemed no different than those that had come before. The menus were the same, which is to say voluminous and repetitive, and even the decors seemed cookie cutter and stereotypical.

But that’s started to change in the past few years. Menus are more thoughtful and aren’t intent on presenting every possible combination of ingredients. And even the restaurants themselves seem more modern and up to date.

One restaurant that I thought did a nice job of modernizing the Vietnamese dining experience was Mai Bistro, which opened in late 2017 and unfortunately closed in early 2018.

Now Z Asian has moved into the same space and it, too, offers a more modernistic approach to the Vietnamese dining experience while still paying homage to the traditional recipes.

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Le House

Written By Scott Joseph On April 4, 2019

Le House interior

The owners of a new Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Orlando named it Le House because they wanted customers to feel as if they were dining at their home. I can’t attest to that authenticity, but I can say that I certainly felt welcomed and accommodated on my visit, even if I wasn’t offered the guest room.

The menu here is more succinct than at other Vietnamese restaurants. Pho is available, as it must be at all local Vietnamese restaurants, apparently by law. But Le House’s menu has a manageable 10 entries instead of the three or four dozen you might be asked to negotiate elsewhere.

But pho is not a specialty of Le House. The young man who greeted me — welcomed me into his home, as it were — suggested two items under the Specialty banner: Nem Cuòn, a springlike roll with cured fermented pork; and Com Gà, or organic chicken.

The Nem was a must, I decided, but instead of the entree version, which comes as a build-it-yourself kit of ingredients, I opted for the no-assembly-required appetizer variety.

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Blended Cafe Bar

Written By Scott Joseph On January 8, 2019

Blended interior

Blended Cafe Bar is an intimate little eatery in a massively large space. It’s funny, Juliana’s Fine Tuscan Cuisine, which held this space previously, never struck me as occupying an airplane hangar-sized room. Perhaps the owners plan on holding line-dancing lessons or renting the extra space out for corporate meetings.

It’s distractingly large is what I’m trying to say.

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But it’s bright and tidy —though oddly there’s a plastic carpet protector on the bench that serves as a banquette along the wall — and there’s no reason you can’t have a private conversation without being overheard by the people at the next table, which may or may not be in a different zip code.

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Four Guys Pho

Written By Scott Joseph On January 8, 2019

Four Guys pho

I don’t supposed it’s absolutely necessary to know who the four guys of Four Guys Pho in Casselberry are but it does beg the question. Though as far as I know, no one loses any sleep over not knowing who the five guys of Five Guys Burgers are. (They are the Murrell brothers from Washington, D.C., though the fifth one wasn’t born yet when his older brothers started the business, posing another question that will go begging for now.)

The website for Four Guys Pho says that the Vietnamese restaurant is also the project of brothers, though no names are offered. And when I called the restaurant to ask, the gentleman who answered the phone said that if I wanted to know their names I would have to come to the restaurant because he wasn’t authorized to give that information out over the phone.

Maybe it should be called the Soup of the Secretive Siblings.

Whatever. The food, especially the pho, was quite good when I visited recently.

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