Review: VP Square
This is a new venture for South Grand restaurateur Victor Pham, who owns the popular Cafe Mochi at 3221 S. Grand Blvd., a spot that specializes in sushi and Vietnamese dishes. VP Square has broadened the palate into Asian fusion fare. With a brother and sister in the kitchen, and at least one other sibling helping with wait service, Pham has created a menu with Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Taiwanese elements. In character, the food is ‘homestyle,’ and the prices are very reasonable.
The two-story restaurant is nicely appointed and spacious. The upstairs has its own bar and attractive lounge, as well as plenty of light-filled windows. There is an extensive bubble tea menu, with prices at $3.25, plus $.50 to add pearls, popping boba or jellies. A Black Milk Bubble Tea with pearls was a treat, slightly creamy and not too sweet.
The starter menu is appealingly large, as is the selection of vegetarian offerings. Our Starburst Summer Rolls ($6) were the typical Vietnamese fresh rolls of rice noodles, greens, cilantro and a little crab stick/shrimp, but with the atypical (and somewhat unharmonious) addition of sliced strawberries. The Vegetarian Dumplings ($5) were stellar, with thin skin and a tasty filling. But the star of the starters was the Chicken Lettuce Wrap ($8), oil-laden, diced chicken sautéed with green onion, peanuts and sesame oil that served as a filling for iceberg lettuce leaves. Crispy rice noodles were served as an optional add-in—and I recommend using them. The dish was loaded with flavor. Hot & Sour Soup ($5) was brimming with four large, house made wontons stuffed with ground shrimp and pork—excellent, but the broth seemed to have a little too much cornstarch.
The entree menu has very attractive offerings, making it hard to choose. At the top of my list, though, is the Thai Tom Kha Hot Pot ($17), a bubbling pot of coconut milk soup into which diners place raw chicken, shrimp, fish, mussels, vegetables and noodles. The flavors are outstanding, as slivers of ginger, scallion, Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves float in the broth, imparting their exotic aromas. The only drawback is it’s work—and messy at that. You’re kept busy fishing out the various foods with a mesh ladle, as well as pouring soup into your bowl with a tiny spoon. But it was worth it! The Bibimbap ($14), a mixed rice bowl, was a potpourri of interesting flavors. The classic Korean dish came with mounds of beef bulgogi, slivered pork, cooked spinach and red chili paste piled over rice, a fried egg topping it all. It was slightly sweet from its cooked carrots and onions, and slightly spicy from the meats and chili paste. There wasn’t a ton of meat on there, but consider the price.
A vegetarian offering, Vietnamese Mushroom Crepe ($10), is a traditional homestyle dish. Two puffy pancakes made with rice flour, turmeric and coconut milk came folded over a filling of sautéed mushrooms, bean sprouts, onion and bamboo shoots, like an omelette. Don’t be fooled by their yellow appearance—they contain no egg and aren’t as hearty in texture as omelettes. The accompanying lettuce leaves are used to wrap pieces of crepe to dip them into the nuoc cham sauce, a sweet-sour-spicy liquid.
the scene | Pleasant Asian fusion restaurant in Tower Grove South
the prices | $5-$7 starters, $10-$17 dinners
the chef | Duncan Pham
the favorites | Black Milk Bubble Tea, Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Thai Tom Kha Hot Pot
food • ŏ • lō • gy
lime leaves | Used as whole leaves, the popular Thai herb imparts a strong lemon flavor. They are not meant to be eaten.
hot pot | This dish of Chinese origin uses a flavorful broth as the base for a potpourri of ingredients, which may come already submerged or raw on a platter for diners to cook in the bubbling broth.
bibimbap | A Korean dish that piles sautéed vegetables, chili paste, fried egg and meat over rice for the diner to mix together.
the dish | chargrilled lemongrass pork chop with steamed rice, fried egg, cucumber, tomato and lime fish sauce
3611 juniata st. | 314.833.4838