Gia Lai is the newest addition to Legacy Village, and the only non-chain restaurant. If you’re in the area and enjoy Vietnamese food, it’s definitely worth visiting.
Most Vietnamese places in town–Superior Phở, for example–are pretty sparse in the décor department. Gia Lai, on the other hand, clearly set up the restaurant with Legacy Village clientele in mind. There are chandeliers hung amid a gold color scheme and an impressive enclosed waterfall at the end of the restaurant.
We started our meal with the crispy spring rolls ($4.50) and firecracker shrimp ($8). The spring rolls were very good, with filled with sharp, flavorful shrimp meat and cabbage and accompanied by a sweet, tangy dipping sauce. The firecracker shrimp were tasty but quite mild. We remedied this with a request for hot sauce–sambal oelek.
To drink I had the Cucumber Martini ($9), cucumber vodka with St. Germain. It was excellent–strong and flavorful–but would have been even better during weekday happy hour at $4 (our visit was on a Saturday).
I had the Crab and Tomato soup ($13.50) for my entrée. Considering that crab and tomato are both mild flavors, I was quite surprised by the dish’s intensity. Lemongrass permeated both the crabby broth and the meat, a mixture of ground pork and crab. The broth also had some hot pepper and fish sauce, with the noodles balancing everything out. There were also pork bones with a fair amount of meat on them. The dish was excellent and grew on me.
Jonathan had a rice vermicelli bowl with shrimp ($15). It was very generously portioned with perfectly cooked and seasoned shrimp accompanied by hoisin and other condiments. Jonathan really enjoyed it but ate barely over half.
Sarah had the chicken phở soup ($11), which had a nicely flavored broth and plenty of chicken. There were also the standard phở condiments: hot peppers, thai basil, etc. Their phở holds its own against any in Asiatown.
Our service was excellent, and we very much enjoyed our visit. Gia Lai is a bit pricier than Asiatown phở, but, if you live in Cleveland Heights or further east , it’s also at least 15 minutes closer to you. And the innovative cocktail menu–and a decent beer list, including some Great Lakes–is a nice bonus.