Jazmine Cafe – #PhoDown
I am really proud of myself for being on the ball with this month’s installment of #PhoDown. We had our meal just a short 10 days ago. Pretty impressive for turnaround, eh? I’m working on getting these out as soon after the meal as possible. For no reason other than if I wait too long, it’s nearly the next meal’s time. So I’ve decided earlier is better.
About Jazmine Cafe
Anyway, in August we visited the Jazmine Cafe, located on South Carrollton Avenue in the Riverbend section of Uptown New Orleans. It’s basically where Carrollton and St Charles both meet River Road and thus the river. Right next to Camellia Grill, for those in the know. We’re working our way through Uptown New Orleans’s Vietnamese offering, and frankly I am surprised at how many there are. I seriously had no idea. But I’m so glad to have them.
Jazmine Cafe is a nice little spot with ample seating and a full bar. Which is kind of rare in Vietnamese restaurants around here. Not necessarily unheard of, but not common. Liquor licenses cost big money and frankly, I really don’t think bars are really as much part of the Vietnamese culture here. Especially in the more suburban areas of New Orleans (West Bank, New Orleans East), Vietnamese restaurants seem to be more about eating and getting on with life. Sure, they enjoy it, but why would you have a drink with your pho? I see the Vietnamese as a pretty practical people. This is just my perception. I could be wrong about some of my reasoning on lack of bars, and if I am, please feel free put it in the comments. Eager to know what’s what.
Anyway, let’s move on to the good stuff – the food! We tried several things here, and I’m ready to tell you all about them. We have three main categories of dishes, all broken up below.
Jazmine Cafe has one of the most impressive spring roll lists I’ve seen. It spans a full page of their menu and has some pretty fantastic offerings. The variety of their spring rolls is akin to sushi restaurants and their rolls – so many unique and delicious looking combinations! We tried three different rolls:
The Lemongrass Pork Spring Rolls were the most delicious of all. The meat was very juicy and the flavors ran deep. This spring roll not only contained lemongrass pork but also had rice noodles, lettuce and fresh basil. Instead of being served with the traditional peanut sauce, it was served with the clear nuoc nam sauce. If you’re going to Jazmine, give these a try!
Since we’ve got a couple of vegetarians in our group, we always order some type of vegetarian spring roll – when they’re offered. The Vietnamese restaurants on the East Bank (New Orleans proper) are better about having more vegetarian offerings than the places on the West Bank. Anyway, these Refreshed Spring Rolls were pretty tasty overall. They contained the standard rice noodles and lettuce but also contained jicama, mango, cilantro and cucumber. I only wish the jicama would be sliced more thinly or even julienned. It doesn’t have much flavor on its own so getting a big chunk of it flattens the flavor of the whole bite. Overall, a good, refreshing roll but not my absolute favorite. And I am all about vegetarian stuff so I did give this a real chance.
Finally, our last spring roll was ol’ reliable – the Pork & Shrimp Spring Roll. If there’s a “standard” spring roll, this combination is it. Like pretty much every other pork and shrimp spring roll, this one was tasty and totally acceptable. Nothing overly impressive about it but it was a good, solid roll. Don’t get me wrong – I’d eat it all day. If you’re looking for a reliable dish that won’t disappoint, get this!
We did get one salad. The idea of a Pineapple Crunchy Salad was pretty appealing so we figured, why not? This was interesting – it was pretty much rice noodles with sweet/spicy Thai chile sauce as the dressing and finished off with canned pineapple chunks, cucumbers, cilantro and peanuts. Something like a cross between a vermicelli bowl and the innards of a spring roll. The disappointment here was of course the canned pineapple. With fresh pineapple chunks, this would have been good enough to be considered a great dish. The canned pineapple just gave it a fake, sugar-syrupy flavor that I did not prefer. This is tasty but skippable.
Now to the good stuff. The pho! And another soup dish that one of our diners had that I tried and really liked. First let’s start with my Beef Pho. They didn’t offer rare beef pho so I ordered this regular beef pho bowl. It was tasty but not huge. Which I don’t mind. Several of our diners complained afterward that they were hungry again a few hours later, but I found the meal to be totally reasonable in size. I was able to finish my bowl, and I always appreciate when that’s the case.
I really liked the flavor in this pho bowl. It had a hint of Chinese five spice, the hallmark of delicious pho for me. Plus we got a very nice portion of limes for each of us, which I really liked because I found that I finally had the perfect lime balance in my pho! Below is the accompaniment plate. It looked so nice I had to include it. We actually each got a quarter of a lime, which for me is perfect. I also like seasoning my pho with cilantro and/or basil (I’ll take either or both, whatever’s offered), bean sprouts, lime and a little Hoisin. I never use Sriracha or the fresh jalapenos typically offered. I don’t like my pho spicy. The temperature hotness of it is plenty enough for me.
Finally, a sneak peek at someone else’s food. I’ve been trying to include these more often in these posts. Especially when it’s something that I get a taste of or if it just looks so pretty like some of those vegan phos I’ve shared in the past. This soup below is a Tamarind Tofu Soup and is actually a pescatarian offering at Jazmine. My friend Jen got this and allowed me to try it. It mostly tasted like a vegetable soup but the tamarind flavor punched it up a bit. I really like that this dish included okra. I don’t know if that’s just a seasonal thing or year-round thing, but I’m thinking about trying it in my next vegetable soup. This soup also came with a side of rice that you can sort of see in the bottom lefthand corner.
So that’s it. We had a really great time at Jazmine Cafe, and I’d definitely go back again. Despite a couple of weak spots, it was a good meal overall. And our server handled a table of 10 pretty well. I was impressed. How about you? Have you been to Jazmine Cafe? Care to share your experience or favorite dish? Do so below in the comments. I’d love to hear about it!
- Jazmine Cafe, 614 S Carrollton Ave New Orleans, LA 70118
- Phone – 504.866.9301
- Hours – Tue-Sun: 11a-9p
- Web – JazmineCafe.com; Find them also on Facebook, Yelp and Urbanspoon