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Ha Long Bay

We were half-assedly looking for a place to eat lunch one day and, since we get free air miles for every bowl of albondigas consumed at El Charro and happened to be on East Broadway at the time, we decided that would have to do. We hadn't really been all that motivated to search for new and more interesting places to dine lately for some reason and had resigned ourselves to another so so lunch experience when we were brought up short by a sign on the El Charro gate. "Closed for Clean-Up," it said. We checked our watches and it was the noon hour so this seemed peculiar until we noticed on the same time piece that it happened to be May the Sixth. Aaaah. Cinco de Mayo. That embarrassingly commercialized, over-hyped, psuedo holiday that it figured a place like El Charro was bound to exploit to the hilt. Oh well, their loss. Our only problem was that one of us didn't have much time remaining before she had to return for a meeting and was having blood sugar issues besides. We were in El Mercado Plaza and it seemed like there were other places to eat but we'd never noticed any of them specifically so we began to walk past the stores and boutiques. Touchdowns Sports Bar, no. Chocalot? Probably not a good place to stabilize blood sugar for an afternoon seminar. Wait a minute, what's this? Ha Long Bay, Vietnamese food. Now that sounds interesting. 

It turns out that Ha Long Bay, a real and unique locale in the northeast corner of Vietnam, is now a real and good little restaurant on the southeast side of Tucson. There's several murals on the wall when you walk in that depict the bay and the legend that goes with it which involves dragons and the pearls they expectorated which then became islands. The decor also involves a smattering of bamboo, live and hanging, which adds a subtle authenticity to the meal. We've been back to Ha Long Bay numerous times since the initial discovery and have been more impressed on each visit. The only problem is that others have begun to make the discovery as well and it no longer feels like our private dining spot. They had been getting by with one lunch waitress but lately she is beginning to get stretched a bit.

One reason she has trouble keeping up is that most people that come in order either a smoothie or a slush which she then has to go and blend up from scratch. We wouldn't have it any other way of course and with the ingredients being things like fresh mango, papaya and coconut with optional tapioca balls, these concoctions are delicious and the perfect summer accompaniment to a bowl of Pho or other spicy soup. The garden rolls and spring rolls are excellent as well with shrimp, pork, or just veggies along with rice noodles packed into rice paper with a succulent dipping sauce. We've tried some of the more traditional dishes that all menus with an Asian flair seem to feature (cashew chicken etc..) but they pale in comparison to the soups at Ha Long Bay which come with plates of fresh cilantro, bean sprouts, and fresh peppers to add and are tangy and hinted with various exotic flavors like lemon grass and garlicy peppers. Vegetarians have plenty to chose from as well. We haven't tried the place at night and we haven't tried all the dishes but the early report is that Ha Long Bay is a hidden gem. The only recommendation we would make is that they move the ever busy blender, which is currently at a little service bar in the main room, back into the kitchen since the noise it makes during operation can be highly interruptive if you happen to be sitting in close proximity. Kind of like trying to converse near a runway. All in all though, the food is fresh and service excellent so we don't mind putting up with a little noise. Especially when a mango slush is the result.

Ha Long Bay
6304 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85711

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