Rice Paper Fills a Niche, But Will Guests Pay the Price ($8 for a Banh Mi?)

Categories: First Taste

RicePaperSaigonBun.jpg
Bun Goi (Saigon Salad)
​When I popped in for lunch the other day at Rice Paper, the new modern Vietnamese eatery in midtown Phoenix, I wasn't alone.

Packed with downtown suits, Vietnamese locals, and a few hipsters, the chic little house-turned restaurant at 2221 North Seventh Street was bustling with activity.

RicePaperInterior.jpg
The stylish scene inside Rice Paper.
​My server said a lot of work had gone into transforming the one-time household into a stylish eatery which included adding a full bar and design features like wood accents, exposed brick, a gray and white palette, and small metal chandeliers. It certainly looked great and the small space made it all the more engaging.

And with Rice Paper's menu of fresh and crispy spring rolls, bahn mi, salads, pho, and entrees including curry tofu and lemon grass chicken, this new restaurant seemed to fit a niche of both style and sustenance for Vietnamese cuisine in midtown Phoenix.

But would the food live up to the fashion-friendly decor? Let's take a bite and find out.

With nearly twenty types of fresh and crispy spring rolls to choose from at Rice Paper, there's certainly variety a-go-go. My friendly server directed me to three: the traditional with lean pork and hoisin sauce, the Spicy Asian featuring Asian sausage and imitation crab with Asian pesto, and the Spider with tempura soft shelled crab, mangoes, and miso ginger sauce.

Thumbnail image for RicePaperSpicyAsianSpringRoll.jpg
Spicy Asian spring roll.
​The traditional was fair, the Spider better (although I sadly could not taste the mangoes), and the spicy Asian the best with its bit of pop. Were they interesting enough to warrant price tags of $3.50 (traditional), $4.50 (Spicy Asian), and $4.75 (Spider)? Probably not.

The same could be said of the thirteen dollar Saigon salad (bun goi) with grilled pork. While the ingredients were fresh, overall, I missed the liveliness of this cool noodle dish. Maybe more of a dynamic dressing or enhanced flavors from the marinated pork would have saved it.

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Rice Paper banh mi.
​Unfortunately, the pork banh mi at Rice Paper was my most disappointing dish. At a whopping eight dollars, the bun was brick-wall hard, the taste average, and the side of fries a curious accompaniment.

Here's hoping Rice Paper will work as hard on their modern Vietnamese cuisine as it did on the decór -- at least enough to justify the prices -- or this niche may be history.

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Location Info

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Rice Paper

2221 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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12 comments
Rice_Paper_sucks43269
Rice_Paper_sucks43269

This place is a joke, only serves purpose for those who are too afraid to experience real ethnic cuisine in a non chic environment, drive 10 minutes north to Da Vang or Pho Thranh and save your self the price tag.::

Azviv1948
Azviv1948

The food is good. BUT (a really big but) I have been there 3 times and the last 2 times the service was truly bad.  Same excuse both times---we are understaffed.  The place was not all that busy today.  And the waiter did not sound the least bit sincere.  And nothing was offered to make it better

Flat
Flat

.....most of you who think this expensive food ....Where do you eat?...this is one of the best new restaurants in this town...they filled a need ....I think if you don't know what your talking about..you shouldn't be talking....

pattie
pattie

Most of you guys talk about the price and how expensive it is, why can't a Vietnamese restaurant charge a little bit more than the tipical Vietnamese restaurant. Phoenix wake up! This restaurant is great and I am Vietnamese myself, the springrolls are wonderful and the braised pork sandwich they serve is awesome, taste just like what my grandma and ma would make for me but more tender. And  you scream about the price, they actually give you a side of of seansoned fries, sweet potatoe, or greens and compare the filliings it is alot more. Don't take down a new restaurant in the Coronado district unless you want all chain restaurants to come in. And if you folks complain about the price, go back to your typical Vietnamese restaurants it's sad to say as a Phoenician I myself would like to support a nice restaurant like this

Ahas
Ahas

nice post thanks for sharing!

Corianne Sizemore
Corianne Sizemore

Stopped in for lunch with a friend yesterday. It was good, but I'd take the $3.50 Bahn Mi at Lee's in Chandler over $8 for theirs. I think Lee's is actually tastier. Hoping the vermicelli salad warrants a better review. Glendale (Little Saigon) is a long way to drive for that. :) 

Desertdao1
Desertdao1

Uh...i live in central Phx and no way in heck am i going to drive to Chandler for a spring roll LOL. I love this place. Great food and atmosphere. Will definitely be back. And I am a long time fan of Da Vang and I am willing to pay a bit more for location and atmosphere.

Guest
Guest

Joking I hope?  If 8$ for a sandwich is expensive to you, I recommend getting a new job.  $4 for spring rolls??? Come on, these prices are cheap in my book.  What the heck are you expecting, this is not a dump of a restaurant.

vicelord
vicelord

Is your comment tongue in cheek?

Bahn Mi 9 times out of 10 is under $3.50 and this place is charging literally double that, and then some. I don't know that anyone would have trouble affording that price, but it's not exactly easily justifiable when you can go 10 minutes down the street and get better food for half the price... Sure the restaurant I would go to might not be as "nice" but this place is so over Americanized that I'd rather take the grungy charm of a little mom and pop Viet place in a strip mall. At least that feels interesting, this one just feels a little cold, white people serve my food, the menu is all translated to english. Since when did Bun Thit Nuong become "saigon salad" seriously...

GB
GB

You seem to comment on every post they make on here...I am curious, where do you LIKE to eat? Who does a great job in your book? Awful negative all the time vicelord, it would be nice to hear what things you think people are doing right sometimes and not just you anonymously busting everyones chops all the time. 

Krazybill
Krazybill

You're right, this is no dump; but i've had far better Vietnamese food in places with much better interiors for far less money.  The Blue Moon at Main and Dobson comes to mind.  It's about the food, and the food at Rice paper is average at best.

Krazybill
Krazybill

Shockingly high prices.  Way too expensive; food as good or better at Da Vang or Pho Thanh for 1/2 to 1/4 the price. 

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