La Cai is a Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant located on State St. near downtown Salt Lake. The sign is old and if you weren't looking for it, you would drive right on by. It doesn't matter. This place has been around so long and has such a following that a bad sign probably doesn't bother them. They open at 11:30am and within 5 minutes the parking lot goes from completely empty to nearly full. When we were finished at 12:13pm, there were no tables available and many people waiting.
I ordered Pho, having heard about it from my Parent's on their trip to Vietnam. They loved it and continue to eat it at any opportunity. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup usually served with beef and contains cilantro, green onion, lime juice and bean sprouts. The noodles are made with rice flour. All of this is in a large bowl with broth.
It was okay but tasted a little primitive. The beef was pretty scary. It reminded me of the street food in Asia.
I did not want to write a negative review based on that one experience. Yesterday I went back with the friend who frequents the place. He recommended the Vermicelli Noodles. That is what I ordered, the vermicelli noodles with chargrilled beef and an egg roll. Vermicelli are thin noodles made from rice.
It was amazing. There is a small bowl of fish sauce which I poured over everything. It's sweet and tangy-very addictive. They also serve the noodles with bean sprouts and shredded carrots; A perfect mixture with the noodles, egg roll and beef. There is some type of ground meat in the egg roll mixed with veggies. It has a delicious crispy batter. This is no ordinary egg roll, it's very large and almost a meal in itself.
The beef was very tender and good-unlike the beef I experienced with the Pho. The noodles were really good. It was a fabulous dish. I was so happy. Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwiches is another great restaurant. More simplified food but delicious Vietnamese style.
My friend is a very busy guy. He said that lunch is his solace during the day. Usually he reads and enjoys the time to himself. When he goes to a restaurant where the food is bad, he feels cheated out of his time. On the contrary, when he eats a great meal, he feels totally relaxed and ready to return to work. I definitely see why he frequents La Cai Noodle House. Get there early however.
961 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111