Houma’s White Bowl healthy, fresh and fun

Friends have touted White Bowl since the Vietnamese restaurant opened in April 2013.

Supposedly one of the healthiest types of fare available, Vietnamese food is known for its fresh ingredients and minimal use of oils – a little different from south Louisiana’s normal, greasy fodder.

From the ample parking lot off Enterprise Drive, one would never guess what lies in store.

Inside, the fun, bright red light fixtures contrast nicely with the white and black everything else in this small eatery. And the paper table covers denote casual dining.

My guests and I arrived just before the lunch crowd, but watched the same friendly greeting and attention as the place filled up around noon. Around us, we spot many visitors using chopsticks to spoon thick noodles out of, what else, big white bowls.

Our server, Travis, put this Vietnamese food novice immediately at ease.

He enthusiastically walked our table through each item on the menu, offering suggestions and quizzing our preferences.

We opt to begin the meal with a Sampler Platter ($13), which includes a spring roll, eggrolls, crab Rangoon, pot stickers and chicken wings. Three dipping sauces – a light peanut sauce, sweet and sour dip and a delightful mix of soy sauce, water, sugar and some secret ingredients, one of which was likely fish oil – accompany the appetizer. A perfect mix of beef, pork, crab and shrimp, the dish alone could serve as an entire meal.

The non-fried spring roll comes wrapped in rice paper. Filled with cooked rice and noodles, cucumbers and a sprig of mint mixed with grilled pork, it was my favorite.

The taste of the roll is fresh and crisp and the accompanying peanut sauce pairs with it perfectly.

After hearing others go on about the soup, I decided to give the Pho Chicken ($8.50) a try.

The bowl includes rice noodles, cilantro, purple and green onions and, of course, chicken. A plate of basil, sliced limes and sprouts allow guests to add more fresh flavors to the soup, which I did.

The noodle soup was delicious; the intense chicken flavor and aromatic roasted onion were absolutely delightful on this chilly day.

Travis was on hand to talk me through the options: use the spoon, a fork or chopsticks. It was the first time I’ve been served a soup hearty enough to be eaten with a fork! Hoisin and chili-garlic sauces are available for those brave enough to spice up the meal.

My guests order the Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Vermicelli ($10.50) and one of the day’s specials, the Bird’s Nest ($13.50).

The shrimp, which were indeed jumbo, were served in a bowl over generous amounts of noodles, shredded lettuce, cucumber, mint sprigs and topped with fried onions and peanuts. The hoisin sauce provided a nice flair. A nice twist to a shrimp salad, the dish was uniquely light and filling.

Also available on a baguette, protein choices include pork, chicken, beef and tofu.

The Bird’s Nest is a visual delight. The base is a nest-shaped twirl of fried rice noodles. The mound was covered with well-seasoned slices of red and green bell peppers, baby Bok Choy, mushrooms, carrots and onions. Shrimp, chicken and beef mixed in a scrumptious sauce were blended into the mix.

We didn’t find any desserts on the menu, so we opt for bubble tea – one strawberry, one pineapple and one mango. All are fabulous and you can tell the fruit purée is fresh and made in house. The pineapple and mango included the little balls, or “bubbles,” of mango. We shied away from the traditional tapioca. Unfortunately, they were out of the strawberry balls, so one of my guests is still in the dark about the pleasure of discovering an exploding bubble in your drink.

We all had leftovers – plenty of leftovers. And everyone agreed the flavors are light … fresh … beautifully balanced. And, hands down, Travis is the most informative, fun waiter we’ve ever encountered.

We look forward to trying something new again soon.

White Bowl