Ha Long Bay II: Utterly Pho-bulous


Luke Goodman

Elaine’s Asian Bistro and Grille, 16 Handles, and Burger Village are just some of the restaurants that closed due to COVID-19. While many restaurants were closing their doors, Billy Dang opened two new ones: Ha Long Bay in New Hyde Park, and the recently-opened Ha Long Bay II, located right here in Great Neck.  

Dang decided to explore his Vietnamese heritage in 2004 by visiting the islands of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. It was there that he discovered his love for Vietnamese food and the islands themselves, so he felt it was fitting to name his restaurants after them. The first Ha Long Bay, located at 1200 Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park was opened in January 2021. He opened his second location, Ha Long Bay II, located at 66 Middle Neck Road, in December 2021. I decided to see for myself how good Great Neck’s newest Vietnamese restaurant really is. 

I waltzed into the restaurant with gusto, eager for the feast I was about to eat. I was politely greeted by a waitress, who gave me a variety of seats and booths to choose from. I strolled towards the back-left corner in order to capture the ambiance of the restaurant entirely. Subsequent to my arrival at the booth, I received complimentary green tea with a little bit of lemon, which was quite piquant. I stopped for a second to appreciate the cross-combination of cultures within the restaurant’s interior, with paintings of the Eiffel Tower on one wall and portrayals of Vietnamese culture on the other. After sipping tea and combing through my order one last time, I was approached by a waiter fitted in all black holding nothing but a walkie-talkie in his left hand. I found it puzzling that he wasn’t writing anything down, as I had to recite the order to myself multiple times just to remember it. I figured he was just one of those adept waiters that had the spellbinding ability to remember everything a customer ordered. As he walked away, he repeated my order in Vietnamese into the walkie-talkie, to which a man on the receiving end responded one salient word, “Ok.” I was flabbergasted: it was something straight out of a James Bond movie. I only grew more zealous to put Ha Long Bay II to the ultimate test: a taste test. 

Upon completion of my order, I began a stopwatch on my cell phone to see how long my order would take, and I was seriously impressed. Both the shrimp and pork spring rolls arrived exactly 6 minutes and 27 seconds after I had ordered, and they were marvelous. The meat inside was beautifully seasoned with a variety of spices, predominantly garlic and cayenne pepper. This dish shows that less IS more, and that simple recipes are often superior in restaurants like Ha Long Bay II, with spring rolls as one of their top-ordered items. Next, at 8 minutes and 42 seconds, my Crab Meat Tomato Noodle Pho arrived. This was the largest dish I had ordered, served in a large white bowl, accompanied by a garnish of ginger and bean sprouts on the side. The dish itself contained a steamy broth, noodles, whole shrimp and crab, and a plethora of minced vegetables constellated upon the top of the Pho. I started slowly and savored every single bite and sip until the Pho cooled down. I was then able to enjoy at my own pace, which resulted in the dish being empty less than 3 minutes later, right around the time that my grilled chicken sandwich appeared on the table. 

While nibbling on left-over spring rolls, I reached for a napkin to wipe my mouth clean of the pho, in preparation for the grilled chicken sandwich. I took a swig of then-lukewarm green tea to cleanse my palate and dug in. The sandwich, served on a partial loaf of toasted-italian bread, met my taste buds, and was instantly one of the most spectacular sandwiches I’ve ever had. With a base of well-seasoned grilled chicken, a unique peanut sauce, and mixed vegetables, I instantly knew it was my favorite dish of the day from the moment I began to the moment I shamed myself for devouring it so quickly. By the end of my meal, I was engorged, and so remained my pockets, with Ha Long Bay II offering fair prices for all of their dishes. 

Great Neck is being revitalized, with new restaurants like Ha Long Bay II beginning to open. Ha Long Bay II offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine at a reasonable price, and I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone who is looking to discover some new food.