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1623 Walnut St. Send to Phone

Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner nightly
Open late

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THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED Le Colonial Restaurant Review

: They call it Ho Chi Minh City now, but this is what Saigon must have looked like in the French Colonial period: gently turning ceiling fans; a jungle of potted palms; a mosaic of floor tiles and small paned shutters over windows; an ornate ceiling that resembles pressed tin painted in shades of blood. It all has the intimacy of a private home, at least one where Margaret Duras may have lived. Upstairs, among the white orchids and votive candles, is one of the discreet bar scenes of Philadelphia. The waitstaff is solicitous and so well trained that they will gladly order for you, and this is to be expected since Le Colonial also has restaurants in New York and Chicago. Here, on Restaurant Row, they boast Viet Tran as executive chef, to bring the cuisine of Vietnam and his childhood---less incendiary than Thai, but as intriguing as Chinese. From the predictably French and reasonable wine list, choose an Alsatian Pinot Blanc, a full, fruity match for cha gio, flaky spring rolls of shrimp, pork and mushrooms; or suon nuong, baby back ribs seasoned with lemon grass. An unusual dish is chao tom---shrimp paste wrapped around a sugar cane and grilled. Entrées continue with the signature tastes of makrut lime, basil, lemon grass and mint. There is cari tom---jumbo shrimp and eggplant in a curried coconut sauce, or ca chien---a whole red snapper that is crisp-seared, boned and then napped with a light spicy-sour sauce, and gingered roast duck that is greaseless and sapid. Best bets for dessert are sorbets and ice creams---coffee, coconut, rich chocolate hazelnut. Vietnamese coffee is too sweet for some, too thick for others, but some love it. The entire experience is evocative of another time and place. All that is missing is Catherine Deneuve.


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