For a fun, casual take on Vietnamese, Green Papaya Vietnamese Cuisine in Coral Springs is a great deal. The above dinner is called a Hau Giang "barbecue pork chop," but is actually a breaded piece of pork loin that's been seared on a flat top or griddle. The cutesy plate features (clockwise from the top) a bowl of pho-style broth with scallions, salad with sweet vinegar dressing and crispy shallots, the pork chop covered in peanuts and scallion, nuoc cham (sweet dipping sauce made with fish sauce), and white rice. The whole meal cost less than $10, making it one of the cheapest ways to get your Vietnamese fix in West Broward.
When we showed up at Green Papaya on a weekend night there were two other tables occupied. That could be because the place is just six weeks old. But the location isn't great, either. The restaurant hides in the corner of a quiet shopping center next to the Coral Square Mall. It's very hard to see from the road; Coral Springs is strict about signage. Green Papaya's other location is in Miami Lakes.
Inside, though, the place is nicely decorated with floral-patterned banquettes and dark walls with bamboo trim. What sounds like spa music plays overhead, and the wait staff is dressed in long, silken tunics. We first ordered a bowl of chicken pho, pleasantly aromatic and studded with scallion, cilantro, and crispy fried shallot. The soup could've been hotter, but at $9 the huge bowl was another bargain. Split three ways everyone was still able to have two cups each.
My companions ordered the Saigon special, a vermicelli noodle bowl topped with sauteed chicken, pork, and shrimp breaded with curry spices. They each mixed the tangy-sweet cups of nuoc cham into their noddles as well as lots of cilantro, peanuts, and scallion. We also tried a plate of red river tofu, a stir-fry of firm tofu with carrots, daikon, and baby corn. I found the sauce a little sweet, but my dining partner who ordered it liked it. Both dishes were around $10 as well.
For dessert: a papaya-flavored boba smoothie, complete with soft and chewy tapioca pearls. I'm convinced Green Papaya's version of these boba drinks are some of the best around. They're very sweet, made with fresh fruit, and those little pearls seem somehow better here.
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For veteran Viet diners, Green Papaya won't beat out places like Saigon City or Saigon Cuisine in terms of flavor or authenticity. But for an inexpensive take on Vietnamese and an attractive setting, it holds up well. Just get good directions, or you may miss it.
Green Papaya Vietnamese Cuisine
8951 W. Atlantic Blvd., Ste. C,