Hue In Bay View Is a Winner
Good Vietnamese food even includes Friday fish fry.
Inside Hue on KK in Bay View, the look is clean, fresh, and uncluttered, just like the food. Two distinctly different color patterns in repurposed wood on the floor, one in shades of brown and tan, the other more traditional oak, separate the two parts of this restaurant. The small bar, also made of recycled wood, looks inviting, with all the stools lined up at an angle in perfect formation as if waiting for someone to sit and order a drink. A good choice would be Slow Boat to Dancing, a blend of rum, tamarind puree, five-spice syrup, and lime.
The first thing we notice at the table is a slice of cucumber in our water, adding a gracious touch that sets the mood for our lunch. Since it’s Friday, I order the Fish Fry and learn from our server that when the owners temporarily took it off the menu people asked over and over, “Where’s the Fish Fry?” They returned that Friday favorite by popular demand.
“The fish tastes like a cross between tilapia and cod,” our server tells us. “It’s called Swai.” I go online to learn Swai is a species of catfish native to the Mekong basin in Indochina.
At Hue, the chef marinates it in turmeric, adds beer batter, and serves it with garlic-fried rice, Asian slaw, and Thai basil aioli. The subtle turmeric in the batter gives it a golden glow and flavor reminiscent of curry. It’s a good match for both the slaw with its garlic-based vinaigrette, and the mild garlic in the rice. The basil aioli complements everything on the plate as it introduces the flavors to each other.
One of my companions orders Green Dragon, a non-alcoholic mix of basil, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, and ginger beer. She takes a sip as she tastes her meal and says, “It reminds me of a fine red wine with a good steak.” She pairs the tart Dragon with a house specialty, Bahn Xeo, a pan-fried crepe filled with pork, shrimp, onions, sprouts, and mushrooms. Our server explains that the crepe has a different flavor because they make it with coconut milk and rice flour. “You will find it sweeter that the usual crepe,” he says. We find it thin, crisp and stuffed with everything stir-fried, making a fresh tasty meal. As my companion says, “It’s so healthy.”
Because they stuff a lot of food in the delicate crepe, our server suggests we use the lettuce as a wrap and eat the meal with our fingers.
The Bun Thit Nuong, charbroiled lemongrass-garlic marinated beef with vermicelli noodles on a salad of lettuce, mint, cucumber, carrots, daikon, and peanuts comes with Vietnamese Nuac Mam sauce on the side. I stick my fork in the container to taste the sauce and can’t help reacting, “Yuk! Fishy!” And that’s exactly what it is, a fish sauce made from fermented anchovies. According to The Restaurants Lover’s Companion, “…it enhances other flavors while keeping its own presence hidden.” My companion decides the salad is sufficiently moist and forgoes the fishy Nuac Mam. She says the marinated beef is tender and tastes like teriyaki steak.
The Hue Sample Platter, two egg rolls, two beef skewers, one spring roll, and two Spicy Crab Rangoons, comes with peanut dipping sauce and sweet and sour sauce. We find the marinated beef about 50/50 tender/tough; the egg rolls crunchy and fresh; the rangoons full of cream cheese and a hint of crab but not spicy as advertised; the spring roll, a salad bundled inside a thin skin. It could have used more shrimp in addition to greens, but the pizzazz from cilantro and mint make up for lack of shrimp. The whole thing overflows the roll, thus requiring the use of a fork.
We learn desserts are made in-house so we share Coconut Flan. It has a subtle coconut flavor but could be a bit more creamy. That might be a challenge in the oven timing because the flan is so tiny.
This Hue on KK is closed on Mondays, but there’s another Hue at 6510 W. North Ave. that’s open on Mondays but closed on Sundays. That covers the week for anyone who yearns for Vietnamese food in Milwaukee.
Hue – Bay View
On the Menu
- Location: 2691 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
- Phone: 414-294-0483
- Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Tues-Sun daily
- Website: http://huerestaurants.com
- UM Rating: 4.1333333333333 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)