“At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over and life is like a song.”
This was the song that played through my head as I first set foot into Magasin Cafe, the new Vietnamese restaurant on Magazine Street. Think that’s a little weird? Okay, it might be. But I find it weird that Vietnamese food has gotten more and more popular over the past couple of years and yet there is hardly anywhere to find it Uptown–forcing us Eastbank dwellers to drive across the river to seek decent pho.
Well, not anymore.
Magasin Cafe is exactly what Magazine’s been missing for years. From the low prices to the generous portions, this food is as economical as it is delicious and healthy.
Magasin inhabits a bright little space on the corner of Milan and Magazine with clean lines and concrete benches. The open kitchen allows you to see your spring rolls being assembled and the intoxicating smells from the grill will have your mouth-watering as they waft through the entire restaurant. I arrived a little after 11 am (when they open) and grabbed a seat while I waited for some friends to join me. My waitress was attentive and very friendly, taking the time to go over the menu and suggest some of her favorites.
When my friends finally arrived, we placed an order for the Crab Rangoon appetizer as well as some Grilled Shrimp Spring Rolls. The Crab Rangoon were crispy, hot, and filled with real crabmeat. The spring rolls, which were pretty big, came served sliced in half and were filled with lettuce, vermicelli, and plump shrimp still warm from the grill.
My boyfriend and I shared the Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi and a Grilled Pork with Eggroll Bun Bowl (in the header picture). The banh mi are served on a buttered French baguette instead of the traditional Dong Phuong bread and each sandwich is stuffed with shredded carrots, cilantro, jalapenos, plus your choice of meat. Our lemongrass chicken consisted primarily of dark meat that was lacquered with a flavorful marinade. A much better and a much less dry banh mi than the one I had here.
The bun, however, was my personal favorite. A colorful bowl of bright red cabbage, crisp cucumbers, julienned carrots, cilantro, and generous portions of grilled pork and fried egg roll all piled on top of lush vermicelli rice noodles. Pour the Nuac Mam (fish dipping sauce) all over the entire thing, toss well, and prepare your mouth for utter bliss.
Our friend got the Combination Pho, which came with pork meatballs, sliced beef, tendon, and chicken. He added a significant amount of Sriracha, calling it “the bacon of hot sauces,” which I thought was pretty damn clever. I took a few sips of his broth and it was definitely one of the most flavorful pho broths I’ve had. I’ll be trying the Oxtail Pho the next time I go.
Aside from a few hiccups (like watching our Crab Rangoon go to two other tables before coming to us and having our food take just a little too long) I think Magasin Cafe is doing the best they can to smooth out their service. They probably didn’t expect business to boom the way it has in the first week of being open, but I’m pretty sure they’re loving the positive response. It’s been super busy every night so far and the lunch hour to-go line was nearly out the door when I was there. Such a perfect example of someone seeing a demand for something and capitalizing on it. I wish them all the best–Uptown desperately needed some good Vietnamese food and, at last, we’ve got it.