Brews News

Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro


photo courtesy of google images
Chad W. Lutz
When my brother first moved to Clifton in the fall of 2007 I was completely enamored by the number of delicious restaurants within walking distance of his house on Stratford Ave. Sometimes, when the air was just right, you could smell the mix (and malice) of subs and pizza and shawarma and sushi dancing on the breeze. Those were dangerous settings for a stoner from Stow, who was used to having to drive anywhere and everywhere to satisfy late-night, or even midday, bouts of the munchies.

One of the first times I visited The Red House, as we later came to call it, we were hungry (surprise, surprise) and set out to find good eats. My brother mentioned a small place off of Clifton Ave. called Cilantro that served Vietnamese food, and we agreed we'd try it out. The place literally sat less than a mile away, and in the Indian summer heat, offered a nice little walk not too taxing or troubling.

A lot has changed since my first visit. I'm no longer a twenty-something college stoner and Cilantro off and got some new digs. The restaurant used to sit caddy to Papa Dino's located right on the corner of Calhoun St. and Clifton Ave. The old place was cramped and hardly noticeable, save for the marquee above the entrance. A long bar took up the majority of space inside, with a few tables skirted along the wall on the left-hand side. A small Cathode Ray Tube TV hanging above the front door played UC sports and occasionally Cavs games, whenever my brother or I would ask, that is.

In 2012, Cilantro received a much needed facelift. Under new management, the Vietnamese restaurant moved less than a block away (within spitting distance really) just around the corner into the spot Jerusalem Café used to sit before it was bombed in November 2011. I was there the week the Jerusalem Café was bombed and can remember quite vividly the giant, black and blasted hole that assumed the once delicious eatery. Needless to say, on one of my recent return trips to Cincinnati this past December, the sight of the Vietnamese Bistro in full, living, vibrant color sitting in a former disaster zone was exciting.

My charge was to pick up orders for myself, my brother and our mutual friend, Rob. Again, within walking distance, I made my way down the street from the pub we were wasting time at and was at the front door within two minutes. Bright orange paint glistens off the far right wall, immediately drawing attention to a brand new bar, giant flat-screen TV and seating area. Light colored hardwood floors, modern grey and white color schemes, eclectic art and wide open spaces also bid welcome as you walk into the restaurant. This was not the Cilantro of old, not in the least.

The other key difference was the increase in staff. Roughly six or seven people were on hand to wait on guests and I was instantly greeted as I came in. I had placed the orders roughly 10 minutes beforehand and expected a bit of a wait, but I was pleasantly surprised when only 5 minutes, and some idle chatter about the Cavaliers with one of the wait staff, later I was holding a giant bag of warm, steaming Vietnamese food, with paid receipt in-hand.

The Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro menu primarily consists of noodle bowls. Guests may choose from meat (or lack thereof) grain (i.e. rice noodles, rice, vermicelli noodles, etc.) seasoning and sauce. The eatery caters to those who love all things hot and spicy. Flame seekers should definitely try the Sate noodle bowl with any combination of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu. Cilantro also specializes in stir-fry dishes and the Saigon-style street dish Pho. Traditional Asian cuisines, like spring rolls and soft rolls, find their way onto the flavorful and delicious menus, as well.
Cilantro tofu soft roll and peanut-sesame sauce (
Every Friday, Cilantro celebrates Pho Fridays and encourages guests to try the popular street dish, which has received a lot of hubbub from local and visiting patrons alike. For my money, I would try the tofu soft rolls, which contain the perfect combination of shrimp, tofu, basil, and soy wrap with a delicious peanut-sesame dipping sauce. I also highly recommend the noodle bowls, which offer a healthy alternative to Asian food and feature carrots, onions and broccoli to go along with your choice of meat, sauce, and noodle (or rice). Dine-in or carry-out, Cilantro offers an exciting, modern and tasty deviation from typical Asian eateries in posh, open and inviting settings not to be missed.

Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro
235 W. McMillan St. Cincinnati, Ohio 45219
(513) 281-1732
Open Monday thru Sunday 10:30am - 10:00pm
Prices: $1.75 - $8.00