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HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image
7.8

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen

$$$$

1800 S Carpenter St, Chicago
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Kittens. Betty White. A good ballpoint pen. All of these things are easy to like. Thanks to its enjoyable space and well-executed food, HaiSous falls into this category, too.

You might already be familiar with this place’s background, and even some of the dishes on the menu - the chef used to work at Embeya, a popular Asian fusion restaurant that closed rather abruptly in 2016. But while the papaya salad here might be the same, HaiSous is definitely a different place, with a Vietnamese focus and a more casual feel.

Everything here is meant to be shared, because that’s the way the world works now. The good news is that even if you’re tired of paying to go out and politely stare at the last uneaten bite of steak, at least you can count on everything tasting good. There are prawn summer rolls that come with a delicious hoisin sauce. The grilled ribeye, with a lime juice dipping sauce on the side and charred lemongrass on top, is tender and buttery. The mussels are fantastic - they’re in a rich, sweet coconut broth that should be soaked up with a side order of rice.

The less good news is that while everything tastes great, it’s unlikely you’ll leave here thinking about any particular thing that blew your mind. Many of the dishes seem slightly underseasoned, even with the addition of their sauces. Take the fried tofu, for example, or the whole roasted fish - while both are very well prepared in a technical sense, neither is particularly flavorful. So if you’re looking for an innovative and boundary-pushing meal, you might be bored. But you certainly won’t be upset with anything you have.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image

The space itself is big and comfortable, with tables large enough to fit all the plates you’ll want to order, and exposed brick giving it a trendy, modern feel. HaiSous works well for date night, catching up with friends, or a group dinner. And the prices are reasonable for a nice night out, too - just another reason to like an already likeable spot.

While you might not wake up in the middle of the night plotting your next trip back to eat the fried tofu here, a meal at HaiSous is going to be good. You’ll have pleasant service and tasty food, and anyone you bring will be happy with the experience, too. Like Betty White signing her kitten adoption papers with a nice smooth ballpoint, it has a whole lot going for it.

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Food Rundown

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Summer Rolls

These are very well balanced and tasty. An order comes with four pieces, so it’s easy to share. Each roll has the perfect amount of vermicelli noodles and lettuce - but what really makes the dish is the delicious hoisin sauce.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Papaya Salad

If you ever ate at Embeya, you might recognize this shaved papaya salad, which has a sweet dressing and comes with Vietnamese beef jerky. It’s good - definitely get one for the table.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Chicken Wings

One of the more flavorful options here. Whole chicken wings are fried and dressed in a caramelized fish sauce. They’re sticky, sweet, and a little spicy. Get them.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Grilled Ribeye

This ribeye is cut into chunks and topped with grilled lemongrass. It’s served with a little dish of spices and a wedge of lime, and you make a dipping sauce out of the lime juice and seasoning. The acid from the lime balances out the ribeye’s fat perfectly.

HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen review image

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Mussels

You’re going to want to do everything you can to eat as much of the coconut milk broth from this dish as possible. It’s gingery, with a little bit of lime that cuts through the heaviness of the coconut milk. We suggest ordering a side of rice and using that to soak it up.

Whole Fried Fish

The type of fish you get varies, but the preparation is the same - it’s fried whole and served with lettuce leaves you use as wraps. It’s very mild - there is not much in the way of flavor here. But the fish is fresh and well cooked. It’s good to share if you’re eating with picky people.

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