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Ha Long Bay

In a word: At a Laos for words.

The specs: #0457 
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, Isthmus, 77 Squarebekee, Ruppert Food Blog, EatDrinkMadison.com, QSC, TDPF, Ha Long Bay on Urbanspoon

Latest Ha Long Bay news and reviews

Spring (summer) rollsAngela ate a noodle bowl with beef.
JM ate the curry pork and fried rice.
Nichole ate the laab.
Shari ate the wonton soup and a shrimp stir fry.
We split the spring rolls and a mango sticky rice.
The bill was about $60, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Ha Long Bay an A- (see our grading rubric).

Ha Long Bay was packed on a Monday night. Literally every seat was full of happy faces, some familiar. At the end of the meal Angela's neighbor even stopped by the table to say hi, patting his belly with satisfaction. As well he should have - many of the dishes here are tops. The only way it suffers, from what we can tell, is in a too-long Vietnamese/Thai/Chinese menu that could benefit from some focus. Plus, we were having such a good time that we kind of lost track of the details of our companions' meals - also to Ha Long Bay's credit. It's no mean feat to be good enough to not get in the way of a fine night out.

We started with spring (i.e. summer rolls), tidily wrapped bunches of rice noodles, carrots, cilantro, etc., with a light, sweet peanut sauce on the side. They were a more sophisticated version of the giant, delightfully messy $2 spring rolls at the "special vegetable food" cart on Library Mall.

Larp

Humphrey!The laab/larp was ordered hot and came that way, with a lovely side of sticky rice, carrots, onions and cucumbers. It instantly entered Nichole's top 3 local versions of the dish with Rising Sons and Lao Laan-Xang. JM's curry fried rice might have had a premade sauce, but he was satisfied. Angela's rice noodle dish was tasty and fresh but didn't necessarily knock her socks off (Humphrey's not looking for the competition anyway). Shari appreciated that the server really knew the menu and was able to answer questions about which dishes might have had added sugar to their sauces. Her wonton soup and stir fry were delicious. The finishing touch, a dessert of warm sticky rice and perfectly ripened mango, was fitting and filling. We'd come back even off-list.

Oh, and Angela's neighbor? The happy customer? Tory Miller.

Comments

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Yeah, the menu here is ridiculously long. Phrases like "too-long" and "could benefit from some focus" don't go nearly far enough. This is a menu apparently wrought from an unholy union of Tolstoy, Proust, Stephenson, and Hugo rolled into one monstrous menu-writing leviathan.

I agree that the food is, however, quite tasty.

That sticky rice w/ mango looks delicious (plus my favorite pic on your blog)! I have to check this place out.

The first time I went to check this place out, the service was AWFUL. Took 20 minutes just to get our water after we first sat down.

I am happy to report that it seems to have been a fluke, though, as the service when I went again last night was fantastic. As was the food! Definitely happy to have this new addition to the 'hood.

Gah! This review makes me hungry. Mmm, larp. (The gamer-nerd in me always sniggers at the thought of eating LARP(ers).

Agreed, nice review. I would add that besides the top notch preparation and freshness of the food, they have the -best- sauces of any restaurant in town. A most welcome addition to our food scene.

Have to bring it all down a notch. Decidedly NOT kid-friendly place. Tried it with L and it was a failure due to the VERY SLOOOOOOOOW service. After 45 she was a wreck without any food so we had to leave before it arrived. Asked for rice right away hoping to stave her off......no luck they didn't bring that either. It was a Wednesday night, early, and not busy at all. Just bad service.

Per Amanda's post, it wasn't just a fluke. They have some BAD service.

it was deadly slow today, too - a Sunday afternoon with not many people there. Good thing we didn't have anywhere else to go! The food, as always, was great, though. The best way to approach this menu, I've learned, is to try to have a rough idea of what I want before I even go in there. Today, it was "soup". Another time, it was "a Thai curry". Then it's not quite so overwhelming.

Had dinner there last night - place was jumping on a Monday night. Once again, a great meal: the hubs had shrimp fried rice and I had a very fresh rice noodle bowl. The blueberry rangoon were good but, for $3, the two fried wontons were not really worth it. Looking forward to going again!

By and far one of my favorite places in Madison. This place hit it off right away. Sorry people had slow service, maybe because it's so busy they cant always keep it up. You to want put this in perspective? Goto Lee's Asian Bistro, and you'll not complain about anything Ha Long Bay, even their menu. Long? Maybe, but at least everything in that menu they can make well and has fresh ingredients. Hands down, this place is doing just fine by what it should. A+ perhaps not, but I give it an A.

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