Rose VL Deli simmers noodle soups that go beyond the average pho, featuring various kinds of broths that honor different parts of Vietnam. It’s a gleaming new restaurant on SE Powell Blvd. that is just a couple minutes’ drive from its
sister restaurant, Ha VL, which specializes in classic banh mi sandwiches. These two restaurants can satisfy any hungry customer’s appetite with Ha VL open for breakfast and lunch and Rose VL Deli open for dinner.
The interior of Rose VL showcased a quaint, charming space with lavender walls and white furniture along with artwork lining the walls. At around 5 pm, the place was fairly empty and the mood was quiet, but William the owner assured me that the place gets jam-packed around 6 pm.
William also insisted that I try the “celestial Saigon coffee,” which was an ornate way of describing Vietnamese iced coffee. I’m convinced that this drink can empower anyone with more energy than shots of espresso with its dense, concentrated brew sweetened with indulgent condensed milk. The flavor contains a strong bitterness yet still remains euphorically sweet, and Rose VL Deli satisfied my taste buds with a pleasant balance of the two opposites.
Each day of the week (except Tuesdays since it’s closed) has a different noodle soup, and Monday’s choices were a bold shrimp cake broth and a thick noodle broth. William explained that the shrimp cake’s background hails from the north while the thick noodle broth hails from the south. The shrimp cake especially appealed to me because I was curious to try something other than pho similarities, and it arrived fairly quickly in a large, steaming bowl accompanied by a small plate loaded with bean sprouts, basil, and a wedge of lime.
After dumping in all the vegetables and mixing them into the broth, I dipped my spoon in and slurped a first sip. The broth (which simmered for four hours) had an alluring orange hue but no spiciness, tasting more of delicate fish and seafood flavors. Sliced tomatoes bobbed inside along with chunks of tofu and Vietnamese luncheon meat. The shrimp cake itself was the most fascinating, and it had a rather moist texture that disintegrated easily in the soup. It actually didn’t have real shrimp chunks and tasted more of a shrimp paste cake. Rice noodles also swam in the broth, which resembled a thicker relative of vermicelli noodles.
Overall, the fare at Rose VL Deli is a far cry from a plain dish of pho, revealing a refreshing glimpse into authentic Vietnamese cuisine. With well-balanced flavors and an assortment of fresh ingredients, this place is already flourishing and proving to be a strong contender for one of Portland’s best restaurants.