A recipe by Viet Tran, Le Colonial
Combine soy sauce, vinegar, mirim, and chili sauce. Set aside.
In a sauté pan or wok, sear steak on both sides until rare or medium rare. Remove from heat. Slice steak thinly and toss with basil, lemon grass and onion. In separate bowl, toss together cucumber, lettuce and bean sprouts. Place greens evenly divided on two plates. Top with sliced sirloin mixture. Pour sauce on top, then sprinkle with roasted peanuts.
A recipe by Viet Tran, Le Colonial
Chili Lime Vinaigrette:
Mix together water, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Add garlic, chili pepper and oil, set aside.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add rice vermicelli, remove after 3-4 minutes when almost soft. Strain in colander.
Marinate chicken breasts in the garlic, shallots, salt & pepper and touch of vegetable oil. When ready to cook, grill chicken on both sides until done. Cut into bite size pieces. In each of four bowls, divide lettuce and cucumbers. Top with the vermicelli. Arrange chicken on top of vermicelli. Pour about 2 ounces of the chili vinaigrette on each salad. Sprinkle with fresh mint and peanuts and serve.
Le Colonial is a restaurant unlike any other in New York—it serves the food and the mood of another place and another time in a setting that transcends the present day. The creation of four partners well known to New York restaurant goers—Jean Goutal, Rick Wahlstedt, Jean-Francois Marchand and Jean Denoyer—Le Colonial (149 East 57th Street, 212/752-0808) serves an authentic Vietnamese menu in an atmosphere that is reminiscent of Southeast Asia in the early decades of the 20th Century.
The food at Le Colonial is classic Vietnamese, with an emphasis on vegetables, fresh seafood, meats and an artful use of herbs and spices. Dishes are inventively light, low in fat, visually arresting and vividly (yet mostly mildly) flavored. Chef Viet Tran, who is Saigon-born, uses both the ingredients and techniques of his homeland to create the wide variety of soups, salads, first and main courses that make up the Le Colonial menu.
A favored appetizer is Bo Bia, a soft salad roll filled with julienned vegetables that is served with a sweet bean sauce that is swirled with puréed chiles. Bo Bia exhibits some of the hallmarks of Vietnamese cooking: the crunch of the vegetables in the soft wrapper, the sweetness of the sauce spiked by the hotness of the chiles. These contrasts of texture and taste are also evident in Banh Cuon, a steamed Vietnamese ravioli filled with chicken and mushrooms that is a popular appetizer.
Main courses are equally authentic, often displaying a juxtaposition of sweet and hot, cool and warm, smooth and crunchy. Ca Chien Saigon is a wonderful example: a whole red snapper is crisp seared and served with a delicious sauce that is sweet and spicy and sour all at once. Cari Tom, another popular main course, is sautéed jumbo shrimp with eggplant in curried coconut sauce. The sweetness of the coconut is offset by the piquancy of the curry, and both are perfect foils for the shrimp.
Vietnamese cuisine is noted for its soups, and Le Colonial serves several. Pho is a hearty oxtail soup made with pieces of beef tenderloin, aromatic Herb's and rice noodles. Canh Chua Tom is more complex: a sweet and sour soup that mixes prawns, pineapple, tomatoes, tamarind and herbs.
Le Colonial has a setting so in tune with its menu that one reinforces the other as naturally as breathing. Noted interior designer Greg Jordan designed the first floor main dining area with tile floors, leather banquettes, walls broken by arched shutters and silvered mirrors, and ceiling fans spinning beneath a tin ceiling. The walls are painted a soft yellow, and period photographs are hung at intervals. Upstairs, where there is a bar and lounge, Jordan has created one of the most popular spaces in Manhattan: antique orientals randomly cover the floor, soft green couches and low wooden tables provide seating, rattan covers the walls, and French doors open at the end of the room onto the bustle of 57th Street below.
Opened: December 1993
Chef de Cuisine: Viet Tran
Specialties: Chao Tom, grilled shrimp wrapped around sugar cane with angel hair noodles, lettuce, mint & peanut sauce; Goi Bo, spicy beef salad with lemon grass & basil; Ca Chien Saigon, crisp-seared whole red snapper with a spicy & sour sauce; Vit Quay, ginger marinated roast duck with tamarind dipping sauce
Le Colonial's Chef was born and raised in Saigon in the former South Vietnam. He did not originally set out to have a culinary career, although he grew up learning the arts of the kitchen from his mother and frequently participated in the preparation of his family's meals. After his early schooling young Viet Tran was planning to study engineering, and he moved to the United States to pursue his education in Texas. He began to cook in Vietnamese restaurants as a means of supporting his studies.
Soon Tran found that the creativity and discipline of the kitchen suited him, and he began cooking professionally in 1981 at a bistro in New York City. After a stint at The Sheik Club, he was hired as the executive chef of Indochine, where he remained until 1988.
For the next four years Tran traveled and developed his cooking talents by working in a variety of restaurants both in New York and Saigon. He become the Chef of Le Colonial when it opened in December of 1993.
This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.
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This page modified February 2007
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