I am stuck waiting to see whether I have to serve on a jury down here, but the plus side is that there are some decent cheap eats joints nearby in Chinatown.
This is my second or third time eating here. My wife and I used to live around the block from about 2006-2009, and during that time was probably the last time we went.
I grabbed two of my four standard favorite Vietnamese items for lunch: pho and banh cuon. The other two are summer rolls (goi cuon) and spring rolls (cha gio).
The pho was a bit lacking in flavor. I missed the robust punch that should be associated with the broth. The noodles and beef were both of good quality though, and both the basil and the bean sprouts were nice and fresh. I generally order the Pho Tai, which contains just slides eye round meat, not the beef balls, tendon, tripe or brisket. So that could be why the broth was less flavorful. However I doubt they use different cooking vessels to create the base pho stock/broth, so diner beware.
The banh cuon, on the other hand, was pretty good. For those who don’t know what this is, the menu calls it “Vietnamese ravioli.” It’s wide, flat rice noodles that are rolled or filled with seasoned chopped meat inside – typically pork – and then topped with fish sauce, crispy fried onion, scallions, and thick slices of a processed kind of pork roll that’s similar to a bologna style lunch or deli meat. That description may sound weird to your western eyes/ears, but I assure you it’s good. Here, it was served on top of bean sprouts and some chopped lettuce.
Those two items, plus a beer, came to $21 with tax and tip included. Pretty great.
I was so pumped on the fact that I was back down in our old neighborhood with easy access to cheap Vietnamese food that I went back for dinner. There was this pork rice dish that caught my eye while I was there: Com Suon Bi Cha.
This is barbecued pork chop, shredded pork and steamed egg cake with white rice. The shredded pork was a mixture of gelatinous bits and roast pork, which go nicely with the rice for texture. The thin-sliced BBQ pork was delicious and exactly what I expected. It was tasty and had no gristled fat, with an awesome lemongrass and charred grill flavor. The rice was a tiny grain that absorbed the fish sauce nicely, and the egg cake contained a mash of what I assume was fish sauce and more ground pork meat. It came with carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber and tomato.
I also grabbed an order each of Cha Gio.
The spring rolls were crispy. I think they had more mushroom and veggies than pork inside, but I didn’t mind because all the fixings were nice and fresh. You wrap these fuckers in lettuce and then fill with cucumber, pickled daikon, carrot and mint leaves. Then you dip that shit in fish sauce and hot sauce. Delicious.
And that’s it. Tomorrow I’ll be hitting either another Vietnamese joint or a dumpling place. Nha Trang Centre is definitely good for a Vietnamese food fix. I’d skip the pho, but the other stuff is good.
NHA TRANG CENTRE
148 Centre St
New York, NY 10013