Le Colonial is like Dr. Evil doing the Macarena. It’s not hip, it’s not cool, and there’s nothing that can change that. Your friends in the know won’t talk about it as a hot new restaurant, let alone talk about it at all. But Le Colonial serves solid Vietnamese food in a formal French setting, a unique quality that makes it worth knowing.
The elegant French-Vietnamese spot has been doing their thing since 1996 - a long time considering the way restaurants come and go. Oddly enough, its longevity is partially to blame for seeming out of the loop. Combine that with the fact Le Colonial is a fancy and quiet restaurant, and overall it’s not the type of blueprint you’d draw up to attract today’s hip-going restaurant crowd. But sometimes you need a quiet, formal place, whether that’s because dinner is with mom and grandma or you want a nice meal outside of the scene.
We never made it to Saigon in the early 1900′s, but we imagine all the fancy French joints looked exactly like this. Candlelit tables with white tablecloths and wood shutters are met with palm trees and woven chairs. And while it’s formal like a French restaurant, the food is distinctly Vietnamese. You’re here for pho and barbecued pork, and expect cellophane noodles, ginger, garlic, and chili to be recurring ingredients on the menu.
A meal at Le Colonial won’t be inexpensive. But know that you’re paying for the great service and a nice space, which includes a small patio in front and second-floor balcony overlooking Rush St. It makes for a pleasant afternoon or evening - just know the people inside are more familiar with the Macarena than Hotline Bling.
Never a bad idea to start with fried spring rolls. Your choice of shrimp, pork, or mushroom that all come with a chili lime sauce.
Thinly sliced barbecue pork over angel-hair noodles w/ mesclun peanuts and lime garlic sauce. The pork is hit or miss with being a little plain, but when it’s good it’s good.
The usual stuff. Oxtail soup with rice noodles, beef tenderloin slices, and a variety of herbs. It’s just as good as when you’re eating it while wearing sweatpants on the couch.
Sautéed jumbo shrimp and asparagus with a date, chili, and garlic sauce. It basically tastes like garlic shrimp but is simple and well done.
Grilled seasame beef rolls in a flat rice noodle with cucumber, lettuce, basil, and lime ginger sauce. Good stuff.
A boullabaisse of coconut saffron, lemongrass broth, lobster, mussels, shrimp, scallops, whitefish, and vermicelli noodles. If you’re into shellfish and coconut saffron broth you’ll be into this dish.
Our go-to appetizer. Grilled shrimp wrapped around sugar cane with angel hair noodles, mint, cilantro, lettuce, and a peanut plum dipping sauce. Take the shrimp off the sugar cane and make lettuce wraps with it.
We always like to have a side of these cellophane noodles with crab meat, mushrooms, and cilantro on the table for good measure.