Memphis, usually associated with the Blues, top-notch barbecue, Beale Street, the Mississippi River and the Delta culture, is one heck of a place to enjoy truly authentic Asian Cuisine. From frumpy and down-home, to semi-elegant, Memphis Asian restaurants have flourished and built a devoted local clientele over recent years.
A couple of the larger restaurants have web sites; most don’t. But reviews online can give a shopper a reasonable idea of which ones have a good business going for them. I will particularly list my favorites, however, since I’ve lived here all my adult life and adore really good Asian, and particularly, Vietnamese, food.
www.10best.com rates 8 restaurants in the Memphis area as tops. I have included a few of them here.
? A-Tan 3445 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38111-4667 Ã?Â· 901-452-4477
This restaurant is listed as one its top picks. Average price is around $9.00. It’s meat and seafood are prime but the dumplings are said to be a real draw. There are many specials on the menu and the restaurant is perfect for family dining, with a casual atmosphere. Open 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. It is rated a 9 out of 10 by viewers.
? Asian Palace
2920 Covington Pike, Village on the Pike,Memphis,TN 38128 Ã?Â· 901-388-3883. This restaurant is also very highly rated with a 9 out of 10 possible score. The traditional menu is well enhanced by ingredients flown in fresh that day. It also offers many more exotic offerings than just the traditional Chinese or Asian fare of many restaurants. Average main price is $20, so it’s a bit more than some other Asian restaurants in the city. Open Sun-Thurs. 11:00 am-9:00 pm, and Fri.-Sat., 11:00-10:00 pm. Very family-friendly and major credit cards are accepted. Well worth a visit!
? Lotus 4970 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122 Ã?Â· 901-682-1151
This has been one of my favorites for over 15 years. That’s because of the wonderful family that has owned and run this place from the beginning! Formosa is a little cinderblock of a building located in east Memphis. There’s ample parking, but be really sure you are not in a hurry for your dinner as they are anything but “fast food!” Be ready to also encounter a melee of little children who are studying or waiting on tables. It is one of the delights of the place. You are truly eating with their Family here and they treat everyone like that.
The food is Wonderful-Period. Lemongrass Chicken and other exotic dishes are local favorites, but there are also wonderful unique Vietnamese dishes with rice noodles and the delicious spicy fish sauce. They use very fresh ingredients with a lot of lettuce and fresh vegetables. The average price is around $10 and they take major credit cards.
? Formosa 6685 Quince Rd, Memphis, TN 38119-8038 Ã?Â· 901-753-9898
This restaurant has been one of Memphis favorites for years and has been consistently voted Memphis Best Chinese Food in the “Taste of the Town Survey” since the early 1990s! Regional dishes are served here regularly – Hunan, Mandarin and, Szechuan, – as well as a medley of hot and spicy Asian dishes. This restaurant is very family-friendly and the average price for an entrÃ?Â©e is around $10. Major credit cards are accepted.
? Saigon Le 51 N Cleveland, Memphis, TN 38104 Ã?Â· 901-276-5326
I can’t say enough about this restaurant. It is a real Memphis fixture and has been for well over a decade! You will see Vietnamese children and servers eating and strolling around talking to patrons. You see policemen and businessmen and a mix of folks crowding in for the lunch specials every day! The building, an unpretentious structure in the heart of a midtown district teaming with Asian markets and restaurants, does not have particularly good parking because of the huge growing clientele. Many people find spots on the small adjoining side street. Saigon Le is a real fixture – a monument to the hard work and cooking expertise of these people who have become a real influence in Memphis life and society.
The food? A main draw is the rice noodle dishes and the huge, delicious soups. Everything is served very fresh and many with sides of greens and salad. My favorite is the appetizer of crisp spring rolls served on a platter with a bowl of lettuce, mint, Vietnamese basil, and cilantro. The egg rolls should be wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in the wonderful spicy fish sauce. This one dish has many times made an entire meal for my companion and myself! There are squid and clam dishes and the owners make ample use of the plentiful seafood supplied by nearby markets on Cleveland Ave.
The average main course is around $14, but I have never spent that much because dishes are so large and can be easily split with leftovers to boot! Major credit cards accepted.
? Tsunami 926 S Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38104 Ã?Â· 901-274-2556
This restaurant is located in the heart of Midtown Memphis, a very laid-back area replete with art galleries, restaurants, beautiful old homes and antique galleries. Parking here is adequate and they take major credit cards. They specialize in Pacific Rim cuisine in a very casual atmosphere. Lots of mid-towners can be seen dropping in for the excellent Sushi bar and drinks. They used to serve lunch but no more. Hours are Mon.-Sat., 5:30-10:00 pm.
Average main course is estimated at about $21.00, so it is not as economical as are some of the other restaurants mentioned. They have a host of exotic seafood dishes with spicy presentations. Wonderful soups! I prefer to just dine on the appetizers and my favorite, if they still serve it, has been the lightly fried soft-shelled crab with a spicy sauce for dipping. Delicious. They do change their menu often, however, so there are usually some nice surprises awaiting the regular diner. Business and casual attire is the norm.
? Pho Saigon
2946 Poplar Ave
Memphis, TN 38111-2706
I have saved one of my very favorites for last. My son introduced me to Pho Saigon years ago and I can’t say how much I appreciate it. This restaurant is tops for diner satisfaction. They do not have a web site, but I do know that they serve lunch and dinner and that they are open on Sundays. Call to make sure of the exact times.
Their soups are more like four course meals, with meat, noodles, greens and crunchy vegetables, fish sauce and exotic herbs with a hint of lemongrass and lemon. They have absolutely fabulous spring rolls of rice flour fried to perfection and served with a dipping sauce.
My absolute favorite dish is the combination Vermicelli. It is delicate rice noodles served over crunchy lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, scallions, and tasty herbs. On top of this you get a blend of shrimp, some of the best grilled beef strips ever, and a delicious fried spring roll. This dish is to DIE for, truly. I order extra dipping/fish sauce, eat half and take home the other half for dinner or lunch the next day.
I have never ordered the entrees but people love them and say they are more flavorful than is typical of the other local fare at Asian restaurants.
The price is to die for as well. You can get out with an entrÃ?Â©e and a soup for under $15 easily and I usually don’t pay more than $10 for my lunch. The ambiance, like that of Lotus and Saigon Le, is a sheer delight, with much Vietnamese chatter going on and lots of young students and children as well as the regular devotees like myself who can sit back and pretend they are on a breezy Vietnamese patio on a river!
They also have wonderful Vietnamese coffee and some other delicious drinks that are truly authentic. Dining here is a must for anyone wanting authentic Vietnamese food at a wonderful price and a warmth that you will take home long after the meal is over.