There are those restaurants that we obsess over and forget about, and those that we obsess over to stay. Les Givral’s is the latter. Vietnamese food is my favorite, and I have dedicated myself to tracking down the best in Houston. Mai’s, Pho Saigon, Cali, Mo Mong? No, no, no, and don’t even get me started.
I beheld the first indicator of success at Les Givral’s as soon as I bit into the spring rolls, the gold standard among Vietnamese joints. Filled with exactly the right amount of stuffing, the rolls exude freshness. Do not shy away just because the pork inside looks like 1) tofu, or 2) something processed. Trust me: it’s good. The peanut sauce is neither too creamy nor teeming with MSG, as at many other places. Simply put, these are the most delicious spring rolls I’ve found in Houston.
On to the sandwiches. The traditional Banh Mi sandwiches arrive on lightly toasted French rolls filled with marinated meat, shredded carrots, onion, and cilantro. They also feature long, thick strips of jalapeno. (Yow-zah! I usually forego, but they’re certainly easy to identify and discard if you attempt and dislike.) Categorically, the sandwiches are a flavor delight. A little of the meaty marinade sinks beautifully into the bread, exempting the need for condiments. Try the Grilled Pork with Pate or the tofu. By the way, these sandwiches will set you back a minimalist $2.15 each. Just because we’re in a recession doesn’t mean you have to eat at Applebee’s.
Finally, the noodles. Lord, the noodles. The vermicelli served here is the real deal, not the thicker version that some places try to get away with. Soft, slippery, and served with a lightly tangy sauce, I can never seem to eat these as slowly as I would like. The grilled pork vermicelli is fantastic, as is the tofu version. Avoid the shrimp.
Les Givral’s - 2704 Milam at McGowan in midtown