This little Vietnamese sandwich joint in Chinatown serves up some of the best I’ve had. The bread really sets this place apart from the rest.
At this point, I’ve tried about six different kinds, and my favorite is the #4, the traditional sandwich but with SMOKED Viet ham rather than regular. I also like to order with hot peppers and extra cilantro. They don’t charge!
After two previous visits to New Orleans I was dead-set on finally trying some Vietnamese food. This town has a large Vietnamese community, so I know the food will be good.
My wife and I picked this joint because it was the closest to our hotel that was actually open on New Year’s Day. It had nice ratings to boot. We started with a pair of Vietnamese drip coffees, which were excellent.
Next, we shared a banh mi sandwich – their signature “dac biet” special sandwich.
This was great. Just the right amount of filling, nice fresh French bread that didn’t rip my mouth apart from being too hard or crispy.
Then we had some soup. I had the large “dac biet” special bowl of beef pho. This was great for the price tag. It easily surpassed most of the pho I have access to here in NYC (obviously there are some big exceptions since NYC is finally getting some good Vietnamese food).
My wife had the bun bo hue, which I thought was a bit too pungent and overly fishy for my taste, but it was still good as far as this dish goes. Especially impressive were the noodles. The round, “thick spaghetti” style rice noodles typically used in this soup will often get overcooked and become mushy. Then they break easily when you grab them with chopsticks, which is a pain in the ass. But these were perfect.
Currently, Saigon Social is chef Helen Nguyen’s pop-up dining experience. The location varies, but the most common spot seems to be at Boys Don’t Cry in the Lower East Side/Chinatown.
A lot of buzz has built up around her dinners – deservingly so – because she’s extremely talented. I’ve eaten her food several times in the past year, and I have to say she’s serving some of the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever had in the city.
I haven’t written about her yet because, well, up until now she’s only been doing pop-ups, and for some reason I feel like I can’t talk about pop-ups since they’re so fleeting and temporary.
But Helen is about to open a restaurant here in Manhattan, spearheading the way for great NYC Vietnamese food, along with John Nguyen (Saigon Dep), and Yen Vo and Jimmy Ly (Madame Vo and MV BBQ). Yes, I’m ignoring Brooklyn and Queens Viet food for the moment; there are some great spots out there in the sticks.
Anyway, my wife loves her food too, so that pretty much means it’s legit. Those of you that don’t yet know Helen Nguyen will be saying, “Hey, wait a fucking minute… Johnny GODDAMN Prime was talking about her, and now here she is, all over the news!” But if you read food publications, you may have seen her pop-ups featured as a “must try” for the past year.
Her bo 7 mon (“beef seven ways”) feast was incredible. Her brûlée bone marrow ended up in my top dishes of 2018, not to mention that she can seriously cook steak and makes some of the best pho around.
She knows her meat, as she is deeply connected to the Pat LaFrieda brand. At a recent pop-up, I had her garlic noodles with deep fried soft shell crab, which was incredible.
Also, her meaty fried rice with bone marrow and egg was probably one of the best rice dishes I’ve ever eaten. Highly addicting with that home made scallion oil.
Her newest creation is a banh mi burger. The perfect halfway point between American and Vietnamese, marrying the familiar flavors of both classics.
This beauty is a blend of short rib, chuck and 60-day dry-aged rib eye.
It’s topped with pate, mayo, maggi sauce, pickled carrots, cilantro and jalapeno.
What I really like about this burger is that it’s meaty as fuck but it isn’t heavy. Just like Viet food generally, it’s light, fresh, herb-ish, and healthy… but the culture is very meat-centric. And just like a banh mi sandwich, you can eat this and still walk around after, not food-comatosed and yet still craving more.
Look out for these dishes at Saigon Social, coming soon to NYC!
This spot just took over the Char House location, which was an asian steakhouse (there’s another location by Washington Square Park too). The concept here is customizable bowls of pho with tableside boilers. You can even choose how rich your broth is, like some ramen joints offer; 8hrs, 16hrs, etc. My wife and I skipped that gimmicky stuff and went with some regular menu items instead.
For starters, we tried (1) the chili and tamarind sauce chicken wings; (2) the spicy chili oil pork knuckles; and (3) the spring rolls.
All three were great. The spring rolls were pretty standard in style and format (wrap them in lettuce with herbs and veg, then dip into fish sauce). The wings were delicious and crisp, with fried shallots on top. The pig knuckles were the stars of the starters though. Fork tender, jiggly, juicy, flavorful and spicy. I loved them. They reminded me of oxtail or braised chuck stew meat.
I had the surf and turf pho, which is beef broth with a half lobster and a nice big short rib on the bone. This is hefty at $25 for a bowl, but it really satisfies. Great broth and both the lobster and the short rib were perfect.
My wife had the bun bo hue, a spicy lemongrass pork and beef soup. It was delicious, and contained a ton of different meats within.
All in, this was $85 including tax and tip. High, but very tasty.
I dropped into this Vietnamese joint for a quick bite when I was on my way to pick up a Christmas gift for my wife. I was wearing a nice shirt, having just come from work. Naturally, as a stain-magnetic asshole, I was worried about splashing pho all over myself. So instead of ordering soup, I went with egg rolls and banh cuon.
Both were decent, and it’s funny how similar both the menu and restaurant set up is to Thai Son, which I believe is a sister restaurant to this joint down by the Civic Center that my wife and I used to frequent when we lived nearby. In any case, not a bad spot, but also not an amazing spot. It’s good for a Viet food fix.
My wife and I went to Hanoi House with some friends. I wasn’t expecting such a great showing of Vietnamese food, as NYC is notoriously not that great for the cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised.
We started with a beef tongue sandwich that we split among the four of us. I didn’t shoot it, but man was it delicious. The tongue was braised and super tender, and dressed with chili, lime, cilantro, and a coconut curry type sauce. Just the right balance of savory, spicy and sweet. A must order.
We also shared an order of summer rolls, which were filled with shrimp, pork, herbs, and crispy egg roll skin (all inside the soft rice paper wrap). These were the best I’ve had in NYC (I also failed to get a photo of these – apologies).
The pho was fantastic. The broth was more robust and murky than other places I’ve been. While many pho bowl slingers strive for a clear, almost consomme-like broth, this place embraced the opposite. I could taste the herbs and spices that simmered for hours.
I added the marrow and braised oxtail into the mix, which upped the cost by $8, but it was totally worth it. This is currently my favorite bowl in NYC. Hands down.
My wife ordered this beautiful and delicious lobster noodle dish, which also had some pork roll in the mix as well. The noodles were perfectly cooked, and the portion size was generous, especially considering it was a good sized lobster.
I highly recommend this place for anyone looking to get their Vietnamese food fix.
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.
Last night The Cake Dealer put together the most incredible sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life. A successful combination of Vietnamese and Italian cuisines – a “Vietalian” banh mi sandwich that she called the “Banh Mia” sandwich.
Mortadella, prosciutto, pickled carrots, pickled daikon, fresh cucumbers, cilantro, mayo, maggi sauce, sri racha sauce, and nduja on a baguette. If this isn’t a thing, it will be soon – mark my words. She would have lines down the block if she opened up a sub shop with these.
I was pushing for Italian bread to make the circle complete, but the French baguette is a very important part of Vietnamese banh mi, so it had to stay.
We had actually seen something similar before, in Philly, but more along the sausage route.
Although we didn’t try that sausage and pepper banh mi, I think my wife’s is better and actually makes more sense as fusion cuisine for the following reasons: (1) the mortadella is similar to the bologna and head cheese; (2) the prosciutto is similar to the ham, and (3) the nduja is similar to the pate – which are all used in the classic, traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.