Step inside Cafe Hương Quê and you'll be greeted by warm atmospheres and shiny faux-marble and granite tabletops. The specialty at Hoàng Lan is bún bò hu, a hearty soup whose spicy, lemongrass-tinged broth is filled with thick rice noodles. The broth here is so rich, it's almost milky, and it comes loaded with an assortment of meat: pork meatballs with black pepper, dark cubes of pork blood, long slippery slices of beef tendon, and, the crown jewel, a big ol' pork knuckle—soft, gelatinous meat wrapped around an intrusive hunk of bone that sits in the middle of the bowl just waiting to be picked up and gnawed on. But my favorite part of Hoàng Lan's bún bò hu is actually something that comes with it: slices of raw banana blossom—beautiful purple curlicues that come stacked on a plate along with lime, bean sprouts, and shredded cabbage. Along with being lovely, the banana flower adds a fresh, vegetal crunch. ANGELA GARBES
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