Champaign-Urbana is a community undergoing constant change and the food scene is no exception. A recent addition to Broadway Food Hall, 83 Vietnamese Cuisine, is run by the Lam Family. As mentioned on their Facebook page, “Mama Lam” has years of experience cooking Vietnamese comfort food, so anything crafted at 83 Vietnamese Cuisine is sure to be made well. After easily finding a parking spot at Broadway Food Hall, I made my way up the counter and ordered. With barely a wait before getting my order taken, I sat down and enjoyed the atmosphere. Pop music played quietly in the background as the air conditioning hummed. Set at just the right temperature, I remained comfortable in the ten minutes it took for the Lam family to finish my order.
To start off lightly, I took a few bites of the Vietnamese egg rolls ($5). The brown egg rolls were crunchy with crispy vegetables and tender pork. I also enjoyed the contrast in tastes of the sweet and sour sauce that was served with the savory rolls. However, I finished the egg rolls all too soon, wishing for more. The vegetables were a nice touch to the roll, but egg rolls with mostly meat are more satisfying to me.
Next up were the Spring rolls ($5), which appeared very substantial to me. Wrapped in rice paper, the spring rolls were bursting at the seams with fresh ingredients. As I guessed, the spring rolls at 83 Vietnamese Cuisine were a delight. The shrimp, lettuce and bean sprouts were juicy, the pork satisfying, the noodles a solid base, and the mint a refreshing touch. However, it was the hoisin sauce and peanuts that impressed me the most. While the spring rolls themselves were quite good, they had a muted flavor. This made the rolls the perfect companion to the thick, sweet, and rich hoisin sauce. After finishing the spring rolls, I was surprised at my satisfaction. For anyone who is either not too hungry or looking to have their money go the furthest at 83 Vietnamese Cuisine, I whole-heartedly recommend the spring rolls.
Extremely pleased with the spring rolls, I was already optimistic about the banh mi ($8). Served on a baguette, the banh mi at 83 Vietnamese Cuisine are as substantial as they are crunchy. Between the jalapeños, the pork (my choice), the carrot slaw, mayo, and special sauce, I had quite the mix of flavors to digest. Sweet pork mixed with the lighter carrots in every bite just as the jalapeño slices offered infrequent spurts of heat. Tying it all together was the creamy mayo and special sauce, both of which worked to soften the interior of the tough baguette. The banh mi is a good choice for anyone who enjoys French baguettes, craves a banh mi, or just wants a well-made sandwich.
At last, I prepared myself for the rather large looking Noodle Salad Bowl ($10) that came topped with beef per my request. Although it appeared to be only noodles at first glance, lettuce, cucumbers and bean sprouts hid underneath the generous heaping of noodles. However, the ingredients were not heavy, so I was not overwhelmed. Apart from the freshly cooked beef, the rest of the noodle salad bowl was served cold. I considered this a benefit, as the lettuce and sprouts remained crisp and vibrant under the noodles, which is much harder to accomplish when noodles are served hot. As far as taste went, I enjoyed the subtle sweetness of the beef in conjunction with the mild vinaigrette. For those who want to leave Broadway Food Hall full without eating a ton of carbs, I’d order this hefty salad at 83 Vietnamese Cuisine.
I really enjoyed my time eating at this new Broadway Food Hall vendor. Before I left, I had a conversation with Wayne Lam, one of the faces behind 83 Vietnamese Cuisine. Since I didn’t have a chance to try it, I was told that they are constantly refining their pho to make the broth the ideal balance of sweet and savory. Now I know exactly what to order on my next visit to 83 Vietnamese Cuisine.
83 Vietnamese Cuisine
401 N Broadway Ave
M-W 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Th+F 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sa 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Photos by Matthew Macomber