Tag Archives: soup

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

Em

The owner of Em, Patrick Lin, invited me in to try some of their awesome noodle dishes and sandwich creations. I was really excited about this menu.

We started with some smoothies: the classic avocado, and the watermelon. Both were really refreshing and delicious. HOLY SHIT SOMEONE ARREST THEM BECAUSE THE STRAWS ARE PLASTIC!

Then we moved right on to the sandwiches.

The first one I hit was this bacon egg and cheese banh mi sandwich:

This is perfect. It has all the familiar flavors of banh mi, but with bacon, egg and cheese to go with it. That’s a winning combo. I could eat this every day, so this was well worth the hour-long subway ride out here to Bensonhurst.

Next up was the banh bi burger.

This is actually the one “burger” that I would almost prefer to be served without cheese. This one has provolone, but I didn’t think it was necessary (clearly some might love it though). The bright, fresh herbs and acidic pickled slaw are really all you need, except for a sauce or mayo. This, too, was really tasty – cheese or no cheese.

Next, we moved on to the soups.

Hu Tieu is a pork based broth with pork rib, ground pork, and a mix of seafood (shrimp, fish balls, etc). This was light and flavorful. My wife liked this one the best out of the two.

The pho here is really nice. The broth is flavorful but not heavy, and the addition of short rib really turns this into a satisfying meal. There’s lots of brisket, eye round and meatballs in there, yet this still manages to stay light. This was my pick between the two.

For dessert, we had Vietnamese coffee tiramisu. This was super creamy and fluffy, and the coffee flavors came through nicely.

I’ll definitely be back here again to eat my way through the rest of the menu. And the good thing is that this place was packed on a Sunday for lunch. People are really digging this place, and so am I.

EM
1702 86th St
Brooklyn, NY 11214

Excellent Dumpling House (23rd)

This joint was PACKED on a Friday evening when my wife and I came in for a quick bite. There’s another joint named Excellent Dumpling House in Chinatown. It has yet to be determined whether this is owned by the same folks.

Anyway, I was fighting off a cold, so I ordered a bowl of chicken dumpling noodle soup. It was pretty great, especially with some of their spicy chili oil.

I also tasted some of my wife’s soup dumplings, which were.. shall I say… excellent? Ha! Maybe. I mean they were constructed properly, cooked nicely… no ripping… But perhaps I haven’t had enough XLBs to really say what is excellent or just above average.

EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
165 W 23rd St
New York, NY 10011

Guan Fu Szechuan

I recently had the pleasure of dining with a bunch of food friends at this new Szechuan joint in Flushing called Guan Fu. They do an incredible job of showcasing the different kinds of spice that the cuisine is known for (numbing as well as heat), while also developing intense, robust flavors that you can actually taste. Contrast with many other Szechuan joints in NYC that just blow your mouth out with heat and numbness, leaving you unable to actually enjoy the food.

That’s not to say that the food here isn’t spicy. It sure as heck is! But the balance is so well done that it’s quite impressive. But let me get down to business, because we tried 17 different dishes here. There is a lot to discuss…

The first four dishes were cold preparations.

1. Thinly Sliced Pork Liver

This was nice. No mealy texture or gamey flavor. Good heat from the red chilis. Excellent citrus-flavored sauce.

2. Sweet Fried Pork Ribs

These were awesome. Great crispy texture, super tender, and with just a little bit of heat to gently contrast the sweet.

3. Razor Clams

These were served with Mexican green peppers (likely a poblano or hatch variety) as well as some red Thai chili peppers. Great preparation, and the clams were perfectly cooked.

4. Bean Jelly

This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The bean jelly was reminiscent of a snappy, thick noodle. This was served with chili oil, peanuts, sesame seeds and scallions.

Okay now onto the warm food.

5. “Water Fish” Tilapia

This was both numbing and heat spicy. The fish was served in an over-seasoned broth so as to get all the flavors into the flesh of the Tilapia. In fact, the sauce/broth isn’t meant to be eaten, as is the case with many of the dishes we were served.

6. Dry Pot Frog

This was another favorite of the night. The frog was so tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. It was served with crisp, fried potatoes and lotus root in the mix too. That textural contrast really blew me away. Just be careful of the tiny bones in the frog meat!

7. Sliced Beef With Pickled Cherry Peppers

This was a really fun dish. The peppers were pickled, but the beef and cucumber cooked in the sauce were both fresh (meaning not pickled). Really nice.

8. Hot Pot

In addition to cabbage and mushrooms, this also contained slices of lamb meat and beef meatballs. Awesome flavors going on here when you mixed it all together, and a little bit of numbness from those famous Szechuan peppercorns.

9. Sweet & Crispy Corn

This was a nice way to knock back any heat that might be lingering in your mouth. These little nuggets were a perfect snack. Juicy inside, bursting with kernel corn flavor, but crispy and batter-fried on the outside.

10. Kung Pao Chicken

This is a famous dish, but done right and as close to authentic as you’re going to get. Lots of heat, really tender meat, and a great contrast of flavors and textures in the stir fry mix.

11. Ma Po Tofu

This is another famously spicy dish from the Szechuan region. The sauce here is a blast of heat and numbing spice, meant to be eaten with rice. I skipped the rice, though, and was just spooning the sauce into my mouth, gulp after gulp. It was great!

12. “Fishy Pork”

There is no actual fish in this dish, but it is made with the intent of giving the diner the essence or flavors of fish. The actual protein here is shredded pork, and it is delicious.

13. Hand Ripped Cabbage With Pork Belly

Bacon makes everything better, especially cabbage. This was a really nice way to get a veggie into the mix other than incorporating peppers and onions into a stir fry.

14. Double Pepper Chicken

Wow. Just when you thought Kung Pao was a kick in the balls, you discover double pepper chicken. The two peppers are green chilis (jalapeños) and red chilis (Thai chilis). But the sneaky spice here is the numbing Szechuan peppercorns that are also worked into the dish. Excellent.

15. Shrimp

These head-on giant shrimp were excellent. They even serve small shrimp where you can eat the shell as well.

16. Green Beans

I love how the veggie comes out last. These were simple and delicious though. A welcome addition to the meal.

17. Fried Sesame Cakes

I’ve had these babies before and I love them. These were filled with a squash mash or paste of some kind. I generally like the red bean or mung bean pastes better (they’re a little sweeter).

That about does it. I really want to come back here and try more stuff, or even just put down full portions of my favorite dishes from this trip, like the bean jelly and dry pot frog. Get your ass out here and try this stuff ASAP!

GUAN FU SZECHUAN
39-16 Prince St
G01
Flushing, NY 11354

Chong Qing Xiao Mian Noodle House

The quest for great noodles never seems to end in NYC, but when a really great new joint lands in your lap, that quest seems to get shoved to the side while you explore everything the new place has to offer.

My wife and I were walking around one Sunday when we stumbled upon a brand new restaurant with a sign out front displaying an impressive and tasty selection of noodle dishes.

Chong Qing Xiao Mian is a mouth full for a westerner with no tonal linguistic skills, so I like the fact that they just call themselves “Noodle House” for short. I snapped that menu photo and made a mental note that we wanted to try it (we had just eaten).

A week later we went back and loved it. I ordered the homemade beef noodles, and I chose the “peel” style noodle, which is thicker and wider than “facet,” which is more like spaghetti.

Most dishes here are soups, not dry noodles. Generally I like dry better, but here the soups are king. The broth is much better than Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles or Xian Famous. It’s earthy, and muddy with rich spices that lend just the right amount of tingly heat to the dishes. Yet it isn’t dotted with thick, coarse, dry flakes of pepper or numbing peppercorns. It’s strained just enough.

The noodle quality is fantastic as well, easily rivaling Xian Famous. The only drawback for me was the protein itself; the beef. The menu said tenderloin, but it was more like oxtail. That’s fine, but there wasn’t a lot of it, and much of it was the gelatinous or tendon style of meat. Not what I expected when ordering tenderloin. A few other minor hits to mention: there is no parsley (as the menu says); it’s all cilantro, and a few other things you’ll want to ask about to make sure you know what you’re getting. I chalk these things up to translation errors. No big deal.

My wife got the duck noodles.

These were great too, but you need to be patient to pick through the chopped duck and work your way around the small bones.

Another cool thing about this place: 9% discount if you pay in cash.

On a second trip, we started with some fried dumplings. These were excellent.

Three noodle dishes went around this time. First was the Mala noodles (facet style), with ground pork:

Next was the vegetarian spicy dry noodles:

And last, the “Streaky Pork,” which is pork belly:

I think the way to go here is with one of these three dishes. The veggie dry noodles were absolutely delicious. Even without a meat element I was satisfied and full. The other two bowls were absolutely amazing, and it would be tough to choose a favorite between them.

I can’t wait to go back for round three of noodles and try some of the other side and app items, like the seasoned egg, duck wing and steamed buns.

I highly recommend that you go here before it gets too well known and overcrowded with lines out the door. It WILL happen.

CHONG QING XIAO MIAN NOODLE HOUSE
796 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

The Rice Noodle

This shop serves up some pretty nice bowls of noodles and soup. I came in to take some Instagram photos and tried two.

Beef Noodle Soup:

Ultra-tender beef, nice fresh greens and herbs, and well cooked noodles. I don’t know what cut of beef this is, but it seems to be common among Chinese noodle shops.

When it’s cooked slow, stewed and sliced like this, it gets incredibly tender. That stuff that looks like fat or gristle is really soft and deliciously gelatinous.

Mrs. Tang’s Noodles:

This is not a soup style noodle dish. It had a nice spice level to it from the chili paste, and the ground pork was super flavorful. This was my favorite of the two.

Everything here is served to-go style, though there are some countertop seats available. Give this place a shot. I know I’ll be back to try some new menu items. And each item I had was under $10, so it’s a great bargain.

THE RICE NOODLE
190 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012

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

Meatball Shop

The Meatball Shop just opened up a new location on 9th Avenue at 53rd Street. The space is pretty cool, and it even has a bar attached called “Sidepiece,” where they feature all of their great cocktails and more food items.

My favorite cocktail there is a tequila and mezcal based drink called “the girl with the nice pear.”

My buddy brought me with him to shoot some photos for Instagram influencing purposes, so we were able to try a bunch of stuff. We started with the buffalo chicken meatballs, which were really great.

Next, this truly one of a kind tomato soup that is served with grilled cheese balls. This is only available for a limited time and only at the Hell’s Kitchen location, so get on it while you can.

This dish was awesome: pork meatballs in pesto on a bed of spaghetti. I really liked the texture and flavors here.

Meatball Shop also does something called “smash” sandwiches. Basically they flatten a pair of meatballs, cover them with melted cheese and dress with sauce before putting it all on a nice sandwich bun. This one here is made with chicken meatballs and topped with their classic tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. We added an egg on top because we rule.

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We didn’t stop there. Dessert consisted of a chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwich. Simple and delicious.

But my favorite was the brown sugar ice cream banana brulee split.

Amazing meal. I’m sold on this place for sure.

MEATBALL SHOP
798 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

Vietnam Restaurant

My wife and I hit this place before catching a bus back from Philly. Generic name aside, this place was pretty good at satisfying our cravings for Viet food.

We started with an order of banh cuon; rice noodle crepes rolled with ground chicken, mushrooms and herbs, served with a tangy, sweet and savory fish sauce and bean sprouts.

This is one of my wife’s favorite Vietnamese dishes, so we pretty much always try to order it if we see it on a menu. This one was pretty good, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve both had better.

Next were a pair of soups.

First, the classic beef pho noodle soup, with thinly sliced eye round beef (my go-to Viet soup of choice).

This packed a good amount of flavor, but, again, we have had better. Nonetheless, this bowl was still better than good portion of NYC Viet joints, which are known to suck on the whole.

Second soup: My wife had bun bo hue, which is typically a spicy lemongrass pork- and variety meat- based soup that contains everything from tripe to congealed pork blood.

This version had brisket as opposed to all that offal. It was still super spicy and had a great lemongrass kick to it. Also, the noodles were good. Lots of times the noodles used in this style of soup get too soggy and overcooked. These held up nice to strict scrutiny.

I still liked the pho better, but that’s a subjective thing for me. I think, objectively speaking, the bun bo hue was the better bowl here, even though it was dumbed down and “Americanized” a bit to avoid the use of offal meat.

VIETNAM RESTAURANT
221 N 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Laut

A friend of mine invited me to this Malaysian and Singaporean joint for an Instagram influencer event. The crew of us obnoxious food shooters sampled a bunch of tasty stuff and shot the living shit out of it for our websites and Instagram feeds. While many of the dishes may not look especially gorgeous, they certainly all tasted excellent.

Fried squid:

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Fried okra:

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Summer roll:

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Fried soft shell crab: delicious.

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Breads/Roti: really good.

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Chicken and tofu satay skewers, chicken bites, egg rolls, fried noodle wrapper items and wontons: the red ones were the best.

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Veggies:

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Chopped chicken:

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Drunken noodles: great texture, heat and flavors.

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Amazing spicy fried soft shell crab soup: a lot of depth.

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And one of my favorite things from this cuisine, Laksa. This was coconut curry laksa with squid and fish balls. Warm, comforting and really satisfying with the wide noodles.

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Dessert in a take-out box!

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There aren’t enough restaurants dedicated to this cuisine. Everything I tried was good, so I definitely recommend giving this place a visit or two.

LAUT
15 E 17th St
New York, NY 10003