Good Afternoon, Vietnam! Are you ready for a new adventure in Downtown Annapolis? Join us as we explore our new Main Street neighbor and discover that Vietnamese food is one of the healthiest ways to eat in Downtown Annapolis.
A New Adventure in Downtown Annapolis
Move over Subway, there’s a new healthy, fresh, and quick food source in town. As the back of their menu reads :
“TO THE RULER, THE PEOPLE ARE HEAVEN; TO THE PEOPLE, FOOD IS HEAVEN.” People are a necessity for a ruler to be a ruler. Food is a necessity for a person to be a happy person.
We eat for energy, happiness, and social acceptance. If you eat healthy, you live healthy. We have a lot to do here in Annapolis, many reasons to stay healthy.
Rice Workshop is not a franchise and they are not affiliated with the other Rice Workshops in the world. No, they are a creative and unique group of three owners that knew Annapolis was missing a Vietnamese cuisine that is perfect for our healthy and efficient lifestyle here. Rice Workshop got its name because they offer three different forms of rice: white rice, rice vermicelli, and rice paper which is used for their wraps, and they construct each dish when you order. They wanted to offer our town traditional Vietnamese street food. This is NOT a Chinese restaurant. Rice Workshop is good, wholesome food that is fast and quick. No preservatives, fresh meat is grilled with just a little spray-never oil and all herbs and vegetables are cut daily on site. Many items are gluten-free.
I began my adventure with the finger food of the menu which makes for a great start. The Spring Rolls may look familiar but nothing on the inside is normal. This is NOT an egg roll. Inside, you will find Pork and Taro. Taro is a root vegetable and is the secret weapon to the flavor. Crispy on the outside but the inside is creamy with a smooth texture. Served hot and paired with the Spicy Mayo, you will find it hard to share the order with others.
The next kick-starter was the Roll’d Soldiers. Uniquely stuffed with Shrimp, Grilled Pork, Tofu, or Lemongrass Chicken and served cold. I tried the Shrimp and the Lemongrass Chicken. I was skeptical of the texture of rice paper but once I bit into it, I completely forgot about my concern. It is soft but holds everything in place. They are not messy, tightly wrapped, and easily dipped into the Hoisin (Peanut Sauce) which is topped with crushed peanuts, the perfect touch. Individually crafted, they make them as you order them. Can’t get any fresher than that!
So what is everyone talking about? They are talking about the Banh Mi and if they aren’t, they should be!! Packed with three different kinds of meat, four if you count the Pâté, every bite is a fresh and powerful. It’s a bizarre blend of flavor; I have never had anything like it. They say the secret to the best Philly Cheesesteak is the bread. If you aren’t driving to Philadelphia for the fresh bread, you aren’t doing it right. Bahn Mi, Vietnamese Bread, is the secret to this mainstay. They searched bakeries all over the Mid-Atlantic region until they found the right one. They drive to VA to pick up this bread that is made by a 3-generation bakery. They’re doing it right. It is toasted but light and fluffy on the inside. The mixture of fresh vegetables, jalapenos, and cilantro makes each bite POP and it taste like a crisp, fall morning.
I then moved to the main course and a tasting of the most popular of their rice dishes, the Pork Chops. No chop sticks for this dish! No, you will need the knife to slice through the two large pork chops that have the perfect fat-to-lean ratio that they carefully picked out for their menu. The Lemongrass Marinade may not be noticeable in your first bite but it blends perfectly with the fried red onions and oiled green scallions. Hidden underneath, you will find their pickled vegetables which add the perfect crispness to this succulent, meaty dish and fluffy white rice. This is the healthiest Pork Chop you will ever eat!
Next stop on our adventure was their noodle menu. Lightly marinated Shrimp minus the skewers are served right from the grill. So fresh, you taste spring in every bite. This is a basic dish so adding the sweet fish sauce only enhances its flavor. This is the perfect lunch to avoid the afternoon slumps. You will feel good after eating it, not lazy.
Next pick was also from their noodle menu, the Shredded Tofu. This is one of the few items on their menu that is fried before being placed in a wok to add flavor. If you do not like Tofu, this dish will change your mind. Texture is not an issue and it is the perfect dish to take on the sauce tour!
Like your favorite BBQ joint, they have a tray of sauces on each table. Sriracha – of course they have it but you might forget about it, once you try the others. Creamy Hoisin is their Peanut Sauce. Nuoc Mum is their Sweet Fish Sauce. It’s “the taste of Vietnam” says Owner-Manager Regina. They say we Marylanders put Old Bay on everything; well the Fish Sauce is the Vietnamese Old Bay! They put it on everything and I asked the question we all want to know. Is there Fish in it? The better the quality of Nuoc Mum, the less fish you will taste. The answer is, you will not taste the certain type of fish that this sauce is made with. I will not tell you what it is because I want you to try it. ;) The Chili Mayo is made on site and is so good that you may try to take a bottle home. Not on the table, but available at the counter, is the Garlic Chili sauce. It packs a big punch and is the heat you may be looking for. I mixed it with the Chili Mayo and it was magical.
Drinks are not something to overlook. The Coconut Juice (water) is better than any sports drink. It puts back the electrolytes that you sweat out, especially during the hot days of this summer. I am ending with how most of our days begin – COFFEE. I saved the best for last because if you like strong coffee, Vietnamese coffee is for you. Known for its potency, this coffee is a blend of Café Du Monde (French coffee) and Trung Nguyen (Vietnamese coffee) then mixed with sweetened, condensed milk and served over ice. It’s like drinking a red bull but with a cupful of flavor!
As I sat with Regina for over three hours, I noticed many people coming in to pick up to-go orders. Some inquired on what items were and some knew exactly what they always get. She likes her recurring customers and asks them if it is still as good as their first visit. The answer is important to her because it lets her know how they are doing. She wants them to come back and spread the word about our new Vietnamese experience on Main Street, Annapolis. I just became a new recurring visitor.