391 2nd Ave
(between 23rd St & 22nd St)
New York, NY 10010
Most underrated restaurant I have ever been to. I came here over a year ago and it was empty. I came here again on Sunday after watching a movie in the area and it was again, empty. I didn’t remember my experience from the first time, meaning it couldn’t have been too bad. I was hesitant to go since it was literally empty but we were all starving and just wanted something edible at this point. They have a $9.99 lunch special for an entree and drink, we figured we might as well just eat here. And I’m so glad we did because lunch turned out to be amazing.
We all chose to have Vietnamese coffee over any of the alcoholic beverage options. I expected a pre-mixed sweet coffee beverage but was so happy to see this drip coffee contraption with condensed milk at the bottom. The coffee was strong but not bitter. The roasted flavor of the coffee beans just subtly came through the sweet condensed milk. So good.
For an appetizer, we split the Lollipop Chicken ($7.95) with taro fries, mayonnaise, and garlic chili sauce. Best taro fries I have ever had. Beats Baohaus and Baohaus has some damn good fries already. The taro is only very lightly fried so is just a bit crisp on the outside without the extra grease. Great natural sweet taro flavor in every bite because the fries are fairly thick. Not too mushy nor undercooked. They were lightly seasoned with fried garlic too. Underneath the fries were pieces of tender fried chicken, also seasoned with the same garlic and salt. I only wish there were more than five pieces.
E.C. had the Congee with chicken. I had a bite with the You Tiao (Chinese fried dough) and thought it was pretty good. Didn’t get to sample the chicken but E.C. said it was really good. Overall a nice bowl of comfort.
LAW had the Pork Belly with Sticky Rice, which came with a side of broccoli and garlic. Lots of bang for your buck here. Even he couldn’t finish and took home half for dinner, and if you know who he is, you know he can eat. The pork belly was soooo tender and rich. It was deliciously fatty and tasted great with the sticky rice. The sticky rice was lightly flavored and had little bits of sausage in it. The pork belly and rice tasted like something I would have at home in China. Even the side of broccoli tasted like something from home as it was not greasy nor overly sauced like in most Asian restaurants in the US. It served its purpose as something light and green to counter the delicious meatiness of the rest of the meal.
I had the Panko Crusted Pork Banh Mi. The panko crusted pork was also not tremendously greasy but remained crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The baguette was solid, not amazing, but good enough to hold together all the pieces without becoming a soggy mess. The sandwich was fresh and simple.
I don’t know why this place isn’t more popular and why its ratings are so average. $10.00 for a very homey and delicious meal with a great coffee or alcoholic drink is a great deal. Non-lunch prices range from about $13-17 per entree, which does make it a bit more expensive than the average Vietnamese or Thai place, or any other substitute for that matter. Perhaps that’s why… I know Baohaus wasn’t doing as well as they are now until they reduced their prices. Maybe Bao Noodles should think about bringing down their regular prices because their food is not only delicious, but also is fairly unique. Not all Vietnamese places serve congee and pork belly and sticky rice and delicious taro fries!