Much phun and phood at Pho Hot

Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen supervises Rick Moonen's grilling.

Celeb chef Rick Moonen spent his last night in Wichita partaking in a fabulous Vietnamese feast offered by one of our local chef celebs — Danny Nguyen, owner of Pho Hot Bistro at 306 N. Rock Road.

Nguyen is known for preparing multi-course dinners for his friends, and he’s good friends with former Eagle food editor Joe Stumpe and his wife, Carrie Rengers. The two arranged for Nguyen to prepare one of his decadent dinners for Moonen, who seemed pretty impressed.

And who wouldn’t be? Nguyen brought out course after course after course — shrimp papaya salad, plates of crawfish, sweet and sour shrimp soup served in a hot pot, caramel salmon and fresh lychee fruit for dessert.

The ruins of the meal. In this photo, you can see the hot pot soup, and that platter with all the garnish contains and giant whole catfish.

The highlight was when Nguyen moved the party outdoors to have us grill beef and vegetables on a tiny, tabletop grill and assemble the fillings in rice paper wrappers. Moonen did the grilling for everyone and insisted he was having so much fun, he didn’t care if he got to try any. (He did.)

I was glad that Moonen’s friends arranged for him to visit Pho Hot because it’s one very good example of something Wichita excels in — fresh and flavorful Vietnamese food. We might not have the fine dining Las Vegas does, but when it comes to ethnic cuisine — especially Vietnamese and Mediterranean — we have more than our share of fabulous options

Here are a couple more pics from the evening.

The Pho Hot party: From left to right, John Smith, Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen, me, Rick Moonen, Rick's girlfriend Roni Fields, Don Hysko, Carrie Rengers, Joe Stumpe, Pat Hysko and Jackie Smith.

We stuffed the patio-grilled meat into rice paper wrappers with fresh veggies, herbs and sauces.

Tacos have replaced pho on South Hillside

What once was at My Canh...

A reader named Ron sent in this question over the weekend:

“I drove by 2959 S. Hillside and found a Mexican food restaurant.  Is there another address for My Canh?”

Sadly, My Canh, a delicious Vietnamese restaurant I reviewed back in 2007, closed its doors about a year ago. Nhung Nguyen and Johnson Tran re-opened the restaurant at 2959 S. Hillside in 2007 after having closed, moved and reopened it twice before. (Maybe they will again? We can hope…)

The good news: The business that took over the space is called Restaurante Tienda Rochel. It’s a family-owned business that’s half grocery store, half restaurant. It specializes in breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes prepared by owner Rafaela Rochel and her sisters. Look for dishes such as heuvos rancheros, tortas, burritos, shrimp cocktail, and on weekends, a whole grilled chicken that’s been marinated overnight.

Meanwhile, Ron, if you need some suggestions on good Vietnamese restaurants to help you with your pho craving, I recommend My Tho, Pho Hot Bistro, and the classic Wichita Vietnamese restaurant, Saigon at 1103 N. Broadway.

Patio dining in Wichita

Larkspur's dreamy patio. Look! There in the background! It's The Eagle!

Larkspur's dreamy patio. Look! There in the background! It's The Eagle!

One of the things I most love to do when the weather’s even in the vicinity of decent is to sit on one of Wichita’s gorgeous restaurant patios and enjoy a glass of wine and a plate of deliciousness.

Sadly, Wichita’s not much of a sidewalk cafe town, but the patios we do have are very nice. Since this weekend promises reasonable temps, I thought I’d share my nominations for Wichita’s most fabulous outdoor dining spaces. Add yours below if you think I missed one.

1. Chester’s Chophouse, 1550 N. Webb Road: The covered patio at this upscale steakhouse is something to behold: Secluded seating, gorgeous stone accents, comfortable tables, a glowing fireplace in the corner and a view of a pond — and an office building. But it’s still a great place to wine and dine.

2. Yia Yia’s Eurobistro, 8115 E 21st Street North: The landscaping is gorgeous at this Bradley Fair restaurant, and the patio — filled with pumped in jazz or sometimes live music — has a special feel.

3. Larkspur, 904 E. Douglas: Larkspur’s patio is fun because it offers prime Old Town people watching — and it’s right across the street from the Wichita Eagle. In the spring, it has gorgeous wisteria dropping from the lattice covering, and it offers a nice mix of short and tall tables.

4. Redrock Canyon Grill, 1844 North Rock Road: The cozy, covered patio at Redrock is tucked into the side of the restaurant, and despite its parking lot views, it’s beautiful and comfortable. A highlight is the glowing fire pit that separates it from the front of the restaurant.

5. Pho Hot Bistro, 306 N. Rock Road: Owner Danny Nguyen serves upscale Vietnamese food out of his restaurant, which offers a pretty patio complete with gorgeous plantings and built-in misters.