Lieng's - Tamuning's Oldest Vietnamese Eatery Keeps 'em Coming Back for More!
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Lieng's Restaurant, located in Tamuning's Hafa Adai Exchange, has been serving customers its tasty Vietnamese food for the past fourteen years! Though I've never reviewed Lieng's since becoming the Food Guy, I'd eaten here probably eight or nine years ago, and still don't know why I hadn't returned to this undeniably successful eatery that's located in what's becoming one of the island's more diversified "food courts". After all, the Hafa Adai Exchange is home to The Curry Kebab, the Kamayan/Island's Fisherman, numerous Filipino fast-food places and the Marianas Trench. I guess another reason for Lieng's popularity is the fact that they are open when most are closed, serving food from 11am to midnight seven days a week. The most compelling reason for Lieng's survival (and that of probably all of the 25 Vietnamese restaurants on Guam) is that the people of Guam have an on-going love affair with Fried Lumpia, which Lieng's owner, Phuoc Nguyen, says is their most popular dish.
Though I'd been harboring the seeds of curiosity about Lieng's for some time, it wasn't until recently when I was asked by someone what I thought of Lieng's Vietnamese food, specifically their Fresh Lumpia, that I decided I really needed to try their food. I went to Lieng's for lunch on a day that was not the best for reviewing. A nearby building was being painted which filled the dining room with fumes. This explained why the front door was open with fans blowing. I considered coming back but noticed some people dining who recognized me and decided to stick it out.
I was served by Anna, who apologized for the paint fumes, and then took my order. I asked for the Fresh Lumpia (three rolls $5), followed by Fried Rice with Mixed Vegetables and Shrimp ($7), which Anna swore was better than Shirley's. I also ordered Chicken Lemon Grass ($7) and, much to Anna's amazement, the Fried Pork Chop ($7).
While waiting for my food I watched one of two TV screens that were tuned to the History Channel. The dining room was very bright, with sunlight pouring through the front windows and then reflected by the arched mirrors decorating the walls next to the booths. This place was typical of so many of the old-style Vietnamese restaurants on Guam, with fluorescent lights, fake plants, laminated table tops, and vinyl booths - oh wait, that is actually typical of many restaurants on Guam. In their favor was the fact that Lieng's was really quite clean.
The Fried Rice was the first entree delivered. It wasn't a huge portion, but it was certainly one of the most colorful I'd seen competing nicely with the brilliantly colored plastic plate with floral print on which it was served. In addition to the usual vegetable ingredients it also had corn, lima beans, and green beans plus egg, pork, shrimp and garlic. It definitely had more ingredients than Shirley's, yet wasn't as good as May's.
The next dish to come was the Lemon Grass Chicken, which was served with a salad (romaine, tomatoes, and cucumber, topped by the ubiquitous Thousand Island Dressing). I recall mentioning in an earlier review of Vietnamese restaurants how nearly all of them use this basic dressing on their salads, which are almost always served on the plate next to the hot entree. The Lemon Grass chicken was sizeable, filling half of the plate's space. Cut green onion stalks, lemon grass, onions, and black pepper topped the chicken. The taste and flavor of lemon grass permeated the dish and the steaming white rice it was served with was a nice complement to the dish.
My Pork Chop plate was served next. There were two pork chops on the plate, along with finedene, and a side bowl of white rice. I tried the pork chop...it was good, probably marinated. I sampled lemon grass chicken, fried rice, pork chop, and salad. The food was good...not outstanding...just good.
Finally, the Fresh Lumpia were delivered. These were long and packed full. I cut one in half so I could view the insides and then dipped one into the hoisin sauce. These fresh lumpia are made with shrimp, rice noodle, romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, and pork. I bit one of the halves after dipping it in the sauce. Lieng's Fresh Lumpia was pretty good, however, I still preferred Mary's, which are made with chicken instead of pork. Mary's are the best, with an awesome hoisin nut sauce spiced with peppers.
I watched Anna deliver two plates to the table behind me, one was Deep Fried Shrimp ($12) and the other was Fried Chicken ($7). Anna was just plain excited about these and all of the dishes she served. Talk about a "true believer" and that makes for a super salesperson! Lieng's has over 53 items on their menu, with the usual Combination soups (all noodle soups are $7). The Fried Lumpia are $7 for an order of six pieces, or $4 for three. Crispy Fried Egg Noodles (Bird's Nest) with stir-fry chicken, shrimp and vegetables is $10. The menu lists Fish Sinagang Sour Soup for $7 and Shrimp Sinagang Sour Soup for $10. A T-Bone Steak will set you back $15 (the most expensive item on the menu). Two items, Barbecue Beef ($8) and Barbecue Chicken($7), are unusual for local Vietnamese menus, and I'm curious how these are cooked. Sodas are $1 and all beers (Standard U.S. and San Miguel) are $2.50.
Lieng's Restaurant has a loyal following who like the food, the service, the location, and the price, and the hours of operation, which are pretty much all day! Parking is ample, with above and below deck parking spaces. Lieng's does a brisk take-out business (I saw six orders go out while I had lunch). For take out and information, call Lieng's at 646-5694.