Tag Archives: vietnamese food

Cloud

Cloud is a new Vietnamese place in the lower east side. After some drinks and snacks nearby, my wife and I decided to pop in to give a few items a try, particularly their coffee selections and their avocado shake.

We started with their non-traditional take on banh xeo, which was more like a pita bread cone with all the flavors of banh xeo inside. It wasn’t bad!

Then, we tried a soup called banh canh, which was almost like a cross between pho flavors and some Chinese noodle soups we used to get up in Hell’s Kitchen. I enjoyed it.

On the flip side, we didn’t like the egg coffee because it was laden with cooked egg particles. It wasn’t mixed in properly to make for smooth texture. I actually asked them for something to strain it with. After that, it was better.

Their peanut butter coffee was delicious, however.

The avocado shake needed some more sweetened condensed milk, but otherwise was nice.

I’m sure eventually I’ll try the banh mi and pho to fill out this review a bit more.

CLOUD
79 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002

Pho Tau Bay

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.

Give this place a shot when you’re down here.

PHO TAU BAY
1565 Tulane Ave
New Orleans, LA 70112

Just Pho

After reading some positive reviews of this Northern style Vietnamese pho restaurant, my wife and I rushed in to try it just as soon as we had some free time.

Contrary to the name of the restaurant, they DO serve more than just pho. They also serve some spring rolls. We tried pork and crab. Both were great. Light, crispy, not too greasy, and big on flavor.

They also serve fresh coconut juice.

We ordered two different bowls of soup; combination beef, and chicken with an added poached egg. Both size medium.

My favorite of the two was the beef.

It had a nice deep beefy flavor from their 15-hour broth making process, and it was chock full of rare, thinly-sliced eye round and brisket.

The noodles were cooked perfectly and had a nice snap and bite to them – unlike so many joints downtown that overcook them into a mush that falls apart as soon as you grasp them with your chopsticks.

While the beef was my favorite, I can see myself getting this velvety, eggy chicken pho on cold winter days. Check out this video as the egg yolk gets mixed in:

 

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I highly recommend this spot. Go give it a shot.

JUST PHO
252 W 31st St
New York, NY 10001

Saigon Social Pop-Up

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.

Helen smiles at the joy I exhibit upon eating her burger.

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!

Phobar

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.

PHOBAR
43 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013

Madame Vo BBQ

The talented couple behind Madame Vo recently opened this joint as a way to introduce NYC to Vietnamese BBQ, which, from what I understand, is very popular in central Vietnam.

Be aware: this is not the same as American BBQ, which we all know is characterized by slow and low smoker cooking. This involves a high-heat metal mesh grill and various cuts of meat. Fast and hot, no smokers.

Also: this isn’t Korean or Japanese BBQ. While they use a similar cooking method with the grill, the flavors, preparations and beef items are obviously entirely different.

What’s really unique about Madame Vo BBQ, and what I feel sets Vietnamese BBQ apart from other grilled meat establishments, is that the traditional “Beef 7 Ways” or “Bò 7 Món” feast in Vietnamese culture really lends itself perfectly to this style of cooking.

So what is “Beef 7 Ways?” Sounds like a dream come true, right? It is. It’s also really not that difficult to figure out from its name.

“Beef 7 Ways” in Vietnamese cuisine is generally a large format family style meal where various cuts of beef are served, obviously, in seven different ways. Almost always this will involve some thin sliced beef that’s grilled or dipped in a hotpot broth. There will also almost assuredly be a spiced ground/minced beef application, often wrapped in a betel leaf. And surely there will be a finishing dish of some form of starch with beef. But all throughout, there are “summer roll” rice wrappers on the table – along with various veggies, herbs and even fruits – for you to wrap up with the beef as you eat your way through all seven courses.

Madame Vo has done a great job of elevating that traditional “Bò 7 Món” concept, refining it, and presenting it to New Yorkers in the familiar grill table format. Here’s how they present their version of “Beef 7 Ways:”

1st Way: Eye Round Carpaccio

This was great. I’ve always thought that eye round would be perfect for a carpaccio application. This Viet style carpaccio was so delicious. Great pops from the herbs, spices and sauce.

2nd Way: Meatballs

These are technically not beef; they’re pork. But delicious nonetheless, and still part of the seven.

3rd & 4th Ways: Ground Beef Wrapped in Betel Leaf & Thin-Sliced Short Rib with Onion

These are both grilled, and the betel leaf rolls were my favorite of the seven courses. They have a great fresh green kick to them from the grilled leaf.

5th Way: Five-Spice Beef Tongue

This was awesome. They’re cooked through and make for the perfect filling in those rice wraps with veggies and herbs.

6th Way: Dry Aged Strip Steak with Marrow Butter

That marrow butter was absolute crack. Here’s a little video of it getting smeared on.

7th Way: Oxtail Congee

I really liked this. It was a close pick for my favorite of the meal.

Madame Vo BBQ offers this “Beef 7 Ways” for just $59/pp. I think that’s a great deal considering the quality of the beef, the amount you get, and of course the deliciousness of the whole experience.

We didn’t stop there, though. We also had some amazing seafood apps (not included with the “Beef 7 Ways”).

Giant Oyster with Uni Mayo

These things were huge, and that uni mayo was really addictive.

Maine Uni with Special Fish Sauce Beurre Blanc

Beautiful, sweet and delicious.

Grilled Prawns

These were nice and big. Tasty heads too!

BBQ Quail

The tamarind sauce on this really made it unique.

Short Rib & Marrow Spring Rolls

Loved these. I could eat a dozen easily.

And because I’m like a wild animal, I wanted more beef. We shared the Pat LaFrieda dry-aged tomahawk rib eye. At $95 for about 40oz, this is a steal.

Really beautifully presented too.

I highly recommend this place. Go with a group so you can try lots of stuff. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed!

MADAME VO BBQ
104 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Di An Di

My wife and I went here with another couple, since we had been hearing such great things about the food.

We started with some nice cocktails. My favorite was the mezcal cocktail “smoke between your thighs.”

The best bite of the night, for me, was probably this take on a summer roll.

There’s BBQ pork inside, but also a crunchy turmeric crepe (banh xeo) for texture. Fresh herbs, veg and rice noodles inside round this out to a perfectly balanced starter.

Next up was fried pig tails.

These were great little morsels of deliciousness. The acidic pickles on top cut the fat perfectly.

Now on to the noodles. First, the dry chicken noodles. These were my favorite of the three we tried.

Very aromatic and spicy from the curry leaves and crispy onions. Awesome.

The soups were a bit of alet down, however. The pho was underwhelming, and the bun bo hue was just too light and lacked the meaty and spicy flavors to which I am accustomed.

The bun cha was nice. These are pork meatballs wrapped in spinach and served in a sweet and spicy garlic and fish sauce broth, which you eat with rice noodles.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to come back, but if you stick to the apps and those dry noodles, you’ll be a happy customer.

DI AN DI
68 Greenpoint Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222

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

Nam Son

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.

Hanoi House

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.

HANOI HOUSE
119 St Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009