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Baluu's Restaurant

7925 N.W. 10th St.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 787-7960

Baluu's Restaurant just north of I-40 on Council Rd.

Baluu's business plan seems to be based on the premise that authentic home style Asian cooking can be spread from the "Asian District" along Classen Boulevard to the suburbs of Oklahoma City. I am not sure how well the business plan is working, but the food here offers a refreshing change from much of the Asian food found in the suburban areas of the city.

The primary cuisine at Baluu is Vietnamese. Each table is replete with pictures of various dishes such as Vietnamese salads and noodle dishes. Pho is served, but I have not seen some of the more exotic dishes that are available in the Asian district.

I am writing this review cautiously because Baluu had a fire that closed the restaurant for an extended time while they rebuilt the building. Two of the best dishes I tried (the vermicelli bowl with tofu and the pan fried noodles) were before the fire, and I know the menu has now changed and offers fewer items than before. I was more impressed with the items I tried before the fire, but I do not know if the restaurant now prepares the food differently, or if it is simply a matter of the most recent dish I ordered not being as much according to my taste.

Vietnamese vermicelli bowl
Vietnamese vermicelli bowl with vegetables

The first dish I tried (and my favorite so far) was the Vermicelli Bowl loaded with vegetables and with a bowl of fish sauce to pour over it. The one at Baluu was about as flavorful as I have found anywhere, and it was also available as a lunch special. The meat versions contained MSG but the mixed vegetable dish was MSG-free, and was the style of vermicelli I usually order anyway. Probably the reason this was a big hit with me was because of the fried tofu I ordered on the side that enhanced the flavor and the substance of the lunch special.

When I first went the Chinese menu was almost as substantial as the Vietnamese, and concentrated on the more authentic noodle and rice dishes as opposed to Americanized fried or sweet and sour items. The new Chinese menu (after the fire) has dropped some of the authentic "Chinatown" type dishes, but still includes most of the dishes popular at other suburban Chinese restaurants. I am hopeful some of the authentic dishes are still available but I am not sure.

Pan fried noodles
Pan fried noodles

The old menu at Baluu included various styles of Chinese noodle dishes with either egg or rice noodles (thin or thick). I ordered the Vegetable Delight with Pan Fried Noodles when they were still serving it, and I was pleased with its vegetables and white sauce served on crispy noodles formed in a circle to resemble a bird's nest. The manager said the noodles were supposed to be burned at the ends, and this is the way I have had them at many Hong Kong and Cantonese style restaurants. When the dish arrived it was a very good representation of the dish I have eaten in other restaurants, including the flavor, the vegetables, and the fact that the white sauce turned the inside of the noodle bed soft while the outside retained its crunchy texture. This was probably the inspiration for so many chow mein dishes in countless Americanized restaurants, but which the restaurants were largely unable to pull off successfully. At Baluu, however, this was quite a good dish, except that the ends were not burned as I had expected. Somehow, though, I was able to make it through the dish without the noodles being burned (and I didn't even have to leave anything on the plate because of not including charred items in my diet).

I think what happened is that Baluu no longer has the Chinese chefs they had before, but all I know for sure is that this and other dishes have been dropped from the menu. I do not have a copy of the new menu to find out specifically what is served, but they told me they no longer served the pan fried noodles.

Vermicelli bowl with chicken
Vermicelli bowl with chicken

The vermicelli dishes and most of the Vietnamese menu are still available in the remodeled restaurant, including the Vermicelli Bowl with Chicken that I ordered. I sometimes like this better than the vegetable bowl, but in this case I really missed the fresh vegetables that were in the previous dish I had tried. There was lettuce at the bottom and other items such as shredded carrot and peanuts, but I really did not think this dish had the flavor that I found with the vegetable vermicelli bowl. Using other Vietnamese restaurants in Oklahoma City as a reference point, I also did not think it had the flavor that it should have had. Still, it was good, and I would even say excellent if you are on the west side of Oklahoma City and unwilling to travel to the next nearest Vietnamese restaurant (which is some distance from Baluu). The chicken was good, and everything was good, but I just thought it lacked flavor. Some lemongrass would also have helped.

Pho is also available, but I am more afraid of ordering the soup at Vietnamese restaurants that use MSG than the vermicelli bowls (the chicken vermicelli bowl had MSG but it was in a small enough quantity that it did not affect me). Other vegetarian dishes are available, and these seem to be the best items I have tried (also they are made without MSG). I really have not tried enough items, though, to say which are the best at the restaurant (plus I have not tried the American food).

Council Road seems to have a diner at every major intersection, so it is logical that Baluu would use its location at the intersection of N.W. 10th to serve American breakfasts (which also seem to be popular later in the day). American lunch specials are served, and there are a few items on the dinner menu. I don't know if any Asian breakfasts are served but I think it would be worth asking.

This is a great neighborhood spot for the Bethany, Yukon, and west Oklahoma City area. Those traveling through on I-40 can also take the Council Road exit and go about a mile north to Baluu's Restaurant.

RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 20

Cuisine: Vietnamese & American
Cost: $
Hours: Breakfast & Lunch Daily; Dinner Mon., Tue., Fri., Sat.
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Buffet: No
Special Features: Serves breakfast

Most Recent Visit
Aug. 29, 2009

Number of Visits: 3

Best Item
Vermicelli Bowl

Special Ratings
Vermicelli Bowl: with vegetables
Vermicelli Bowl: with chicken
Pan Fried Noodles: (no longer served)



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