I have been eating Vietnamese food since I was a kid. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm not Vietnamese, but that's what my father would often cook since it's healthier than other Asian food ... or that's what he would say.
Obviously, the Asian is sometimes strong in me, and being far from home exaggerates this craving I have for Asian food. The problem is I know the right places in Montreal but not in Lyon. I had read reviews on the web stating that La Jonque d'Or is THE place for Vietnamese food. Now, is it, really?
By the way, pictures were taken with my cellphone.
At first when you get in, opening the door is slightly awkward and you realize how kitsch the interior decor is.
It's not too bad, but eh, could be better. But then, you see the people behind the cash register and in the kitchen and you think it might be a family business and it's their way to feel cozy at work. Besides, you come here for the food, not for the decor.
I went there twice already. The first time I had a classic : pho dac biet. When I go to Pho Lien in Montreal I always have a small pho dac biet, spring rolls and che ba mau (no1 small, no18 and no45). Basically it's "special" Vietnamese soup. There are many recipes for pho, but in Montreal the "special" one is made with tripe, cooked and rare flank steak, fat, and tendon. In France it's different.
Rare and cooked flank steak, beef balls. Also, you can see on the picture that this one is quite fat (I love fat). The herbs are also slightly different. But then, I am not a pho expert and I have never been to Vietnam. Every family has a different recipe. I thought the pho was good but maybe too ... flavorful? I know it's weird but I like it when the broth is not too strong so I can enjoy the taste of the other ingredients. I also found the presentation was meh, like the meat had been thrown into the bowl. And, well, slightly pricey. Around 10€ for a bowl of soup? That's double the price I pay in Montreal.
The second time I went I had bo bun (bun bo on the menu? people write bo bun on the Internet? I don't speak Viet but someone's gotta have to explain that to me). They have different kinds : pork and nems (or chia go), lemon grass beef, grilled shrimp, etc. Bo bun is basically a rice vermicelli salad, served warm, with grilled meat, vegetables, and drenched in nuoc mam (watered fish sauce with sugar, garlic, and other stuffs). I had the pork and nems bo bun.
The whole thing looked fat and delicious. The pork was grilled perfectly (you know, slightly burnt on the edges) and well seasoned. The chia go were warm and crispy, not too fat, and their shape held perfectly. Now the part that sort of disappointed me was everything else. The lettuce at the bottom wasn't minced thin enough, making it sort of awkward to mix and eat. The mint and peanuts were almost nonexistent. I sort of tasted them but I seriously wondered where the heck they were. And, mostly, the vegetables. No minced carrot? No minced cucumber? Now I know there are most probably thousands of ways to make bo bun, but so far I like the one from Pho Lien better. Still the plate was huge and filled me up properly, and it wasn't too expensive (8,50€).
What about service? I went on lunch time both times, so the service was fast and satisfying. The people are nice, ask you where you'd like to sit, ask you if you're doing good, and they're always smiling. Now I don't know what it's like in the evening, but I hope if you go during dinner time they're still as nice.
Do I recommend La Jonque d'Or? Yes and no. I wasn't a fan of it because I am used to the way it is at Pho Lien. I'm not saying the food is bad, it's actually good. But my standards have been quite high since I started eating at Pho Lien (been eating there for seven years) and so I tend to be quite bitchy when it comes to Vietnamese food. A lot of people seem to like that place though, and I think I saw a man who seemed to be a regular (the way the waitress talked to him she seemed to know him) but then again, I have seen places I qualified as bad crowded. Then again, I'm not saying it's bad : it's like mama's home cooking, simple and hearty. But it didn't stand up to my standards.
Still I think you should give it a try and let me know what you think. Maybe I'm just the one who's too difficult after all.