Downtown restaurant gem: Oriental House

At 319 W. First St. is an 8-month-old Asian restaurant specializing in Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine called Oriental House. My spouse and I stopped by this evening to try it out. With the recent PDD post on Pak’s, I figured the power of social media would get the word out on this little gem of a restaurant since I don’t think many folks know about it.  

The few times I drove by in the evening (before the cafe curtains were installed) revealed few customers; tonight we arrived a half hour before closing and two others stopped in for a meal.  Perhaps they draw a strong lunch crowd.  I’m a big fan of Asian food and I’m always thrilled when a new restaurant comes to fruition in Duluth. Oriental House certainly deserves high praise and raves for its friendly staff and affordable scrumptious food.

The interior is comfortable with two-tone walls of white/black and dark wooden cross beams. Simple decorations of a few lacquered art work adorned the walls. The restaurant could do better with fresh flowers instead of the plastic variety, but I figure I would rather staff spend money on ingredients than say oleanders.

Indeed, the restaurant hit the mark on my chicken massaman entree. Served piping hot with white rice, I quickly sampled the broth and took in its sweet flavor. The chicken was perfect and the accompanying vegetables were fresh and crisp. The dish contained snow peas, green peppers, carrots, and pieces of apple. I was making small noises of delight while eating away — there were a lot of hm’s punctuating the bites I took. My spouse had a combination dinner of sweet & sour chicken and green pepper steak with tomatoes and onions in a brown sauce. He, too, gave his meal thumbs up. The pork egg rolls were also commendable; they were meaty with clear thin noodles, not the cabbage that overwhelms many egg rolls. Be sure to ask for the fish sauce to go with them.

The dishes are very affordable and there is enough food to satisfy a hungry tum. The massaman was only $8.25 and the combo $8.95. The waitress was attentive, but not overly so, and the restaurant owner stopped by to ask about our meal. I thought that was a nice touch as not many owners in restaurants tend to do that anymore.

I didn’t take any photos while visiting, but they do have a Facebook page with photos of their take-out menu and a few dishes.  They also deliver — ask for details. I can’t wait to return for more meals.

9 Comments

Ruthie

about 2 years ago

I am so glad you posted this. This location has been a Chinese restaurant many lives over. Sometimes I think that hurts a new owner because people don't realize the ownership has changed. In this case, the new owner, who opened early this year, is putting out great food. I have eaten there twice, once for the lunch buffet and once for dinner. The food was excellent both times. For lunch buffet the selections are Thai, Vienames and traditional Chinese and they are cooked in small batches with the veggies cooked just right. My husband and I were there last week for dinner and had a shrimp appetizer (can't remember the name) that was so delicious I couldn't get enough. I had Pho and it was excellent. They served the 'hot' spice on the side so I could make it as spicy as I wanted. My husband had General Tso's Chicken and it was good as well. They do take out and delivery as well.

Karasu

about 2 years ago

Pho ("fuh") Tai at Oriental House is one of our go-to lunches "out." Very inexpensive, very tasty.

rhetoricguy@gmail.com

about 2 years ago

I went in for the lunch buffet with the Missus. The food was prepared, as noted, in small batches, so always hot and fresh, rather than warmed over. Very pleasant Pad Thai, although very rote Sweet & Sour Chicken. But best of all was the readily available nuoc mam (http://www.theravenouscouple.com/2009/06/nuoc-mam-cham-vietnamese-dipping-fish-sauce.html), or fish sauce, specially seasoned for dipping. You can buy fish sauce, the base, at Cub and Whole Foods, but nowhere in the Duluth area can you buy it with the additives for dipping egg rolls, etc. For that, you need to know the magic. My wife is Vietnamese, and asking for nuoc mam is almost the secret code for "I am Vietnamese; are you?" (Unless I ask for it. Then it inspires a double take of "what did the fat white man ask for?) Nuoc mam and Vietname got Kate and the owner talking for a bit, doubling our fun in the restaurant.

emmadogs

about 2 years ago

We had excellent sesame chicken and mongolian beef delivered this weekend. Super friendly service, and quick as well. We'll definitely order again. I'm looking forward to the pad thai. Thai Krathong's delivery is just too expensive anymore.

Claire

about 2 years ago

Thanks for the heads up, I will have to check it out! Rhetoric Guy and his wife and I often end up dining at the same places, if they like it, I am sure I will too.

ginger

about 2 years ago

Do they use MSG?

Ruthie

about 2 years ago

I don't think so. I am very sensitive to MSG and have eaten there twice and both times have had no problem.

-Berv

about 2 years ago

Do yourself a favor. Try their chicken Tom Kha soup. If you feel bad in any way, physically or mentally, it will make you feel better for less than 10 bucks.

bonerwashington

about 2 years ago

My wife and I love this place! The food is great, the place is clean and the people are friendly. The best Asian food in the city I know of, and fast and cheap for lunch. I wish I had two stomachs so I could eat more! This is a picture of how I feel for only having one!

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