Tag Archives: pho bo

Sai Gon Dep

Sai Gon Dep is a new pho-focused casual joint by acclaimed former Hanoi House chef John Nguyen. He’s a master at making pho – the best I’ve had outside of Vietnam.

While Hanoi House is focused on northern style beef soup, Sai Gon Dep focuses on southern style chicken soup from the region where John was born.

Although beef soup is still served here (as well as full-on 45-day dry-aged tomahawk chops, available only on weekends – 8/10) and other protein entrees are available on the menu, the main focus is on fowl.

They even have balut, for those looking for either an authentic or Zimmern-esque experience.

At $15 a bowl, these soups are a steal. The rich, hearty poultry flavor is like nothing else I’ve had. Not even the most rich paitan broths come close, and this soup eats much lighter than those salty sweat-bomb bowls at ramen shops.

While the noodles here come with shredded meat and an egg yolk in the broth, you can order a half or whole chicken to go with it.

Pull some meat off the bones and drag it through the ginger chicken fat oil and scallion sauce that accompany the dish, and munch away at the delicious bird between slurps of noodles… or just plop it into your soup.

Honestly, the broth alone is so soul-satisfying and delicious that you might not even need the additional meat. But if you do order the extra chicken, don’t be alarmed: you may get a plate of feet and heads along with your order. Nothing goes to waste here, just like where John was born in Vietnam. The entire bird is used, and that’s why the soup tastes so fucking great.

Keep an eye out. This place opens next week. I was there for a special media preview, and I can’t wait to start eating this more regularly. The chicken pho is a top dish of the year for me.

SAI GON DEP
719 Second Ave
New York, NY 10016

Madame Vo

Madame Vo is a Vietnamese joint on 10th Street near 2nd Avenue.

My wife and I have been itching to go, since we have been on a quest to find good Vietnamese food in NYC since the early 2000’s. I think we finally found it here, so let me give you the rundown of our meal.

First, Autumn Rolls. These are soft rice wrappers filled with jicama, egg, sausage and shrimp. The brilliant thing about these is that they’re sauced with a brush of hoisin prior to wrapping. Just a little hit of sri racha and you’re all set. They’re delicious.

Next up, the “Madame Pho” soup. This is served with short rib.

Awesome deep, rich beefy flavor. No sauces needed whatsoever. The broth is on point. And the meats are all high quality. It has a variety of cuts like flank, brisket, meatballs, eye round and marrow. But that short rib! So good. And the noodles were cooked perfectly.

The Bun Bo Hue, however, was even better. It’s very hard to find good pho in NYC, but it’s even harder to find good bun bo hue.

So many times, bun bo hue noodles are overcooked and fall apart when you try to pick them up with chopsticks. Here, they are nicely cooked and hold up to pulling and grabbing. The broth has a great pungent richness, bright with herbs and lime, and really deeply satisfying. Just the right amount of heat, too.

Last, the rib eye Bo Luc Lac, or “Shaking/Shaken Beef.”

I’ve often seen this made with lean cuts like sirloin and sometimes filet. This is the first time I’ve seen it made with rib eye, and also the first time I’ve seen it served with an egg.

The result is a nice sticky sweet molasses flavor, with a great sear from the sizzling cast iron skillet. The fat rendered out nicely, making for a delicious sauce sludge through which to drag your rice. I really enjoyed this dish, and it’s a perfect example of what a good chef can do with a choice grade cut of beef when he – in this case, Jimmy – knows how to coax out great flavor. 7/10.

For dessert, we shared a nice avocado shake. While pricey at $8 (avocados are expensive these days), its filling and well made. Not too sweet, and super creamy.

MADAME VO
212 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003

Nha Trang Centre

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.

NTC sign

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.

NTC pho crop

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.

NTC banh cuon

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.

NTC pork

NTC egg cake

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.

NTC spring rolls

NTC spring roll wrapped

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

BONMi

BONMi is a Vietnamese-ish soup, sandwich and breakfast joint that opened about nine months ago on 62nd between Columbus and Amsterdam.

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The menu is simple, fresh and straight-forward:

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Unlike traditional pho, the soup here has very thin, rounded noodles, as opposed to wider, flat noodles. The broth is beef or veggie stock, and you can add a variety of meats as toppings. We went with 18-hour beef in beef stock, with a lemongrass sauce and everything but carrots on top. It was pretty good! Just don’t expect that robust pho flavor. This is more like a standard noodle soup than pho.

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The sandwich, however, keeps it pretty real to banh mi. The flavor profile is similar, though not with exactitude, and the bread is good quality, crunchy, fresh French baguette style:

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It is a bit short on length for the price point, but it is packed to the gills with meat and toppings. This is the pork belly filling:

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The joint also serves pre-made salads, summer rolls and other Vietnamese items, like this fresh brewed coffee:

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For all three items it was just over $22. Not bad, considering the quality was acceptable to me, and even passed muster with my wife (her heritage is Vietnamese, so she is naturally picky when it comes to anything claiming to be remotely Vietnamese). Give it a shot!

BONMI
150 W. 62nd St.
New York, NY 10023