Madame Vo for Bun Bo Hue and Pho

Madame Vo
212 East 10th St (2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

Quick post for a place that deserves a quick bite. Madame Vo is one of two new vietnamese restaurants to open in East Village this year (the other is Hanoi House). I promise to try Hanoi House soon to do a comparison, but first up we have my review of Madame Vo. Full disclosure, I actually got the two mixed up because my instafeed was blowing up with photos from both places. I wanted to go to the one that had the pho with a massive bone marrow in the bone – turns out that one is Hanoi House…

Nonetheless, I went to Madame Vo twice within two weeks.

The vietnamese coffee ($4) tastes like chilled, melted coffee ice cream. It was good, very tasty, but definitely more of a dessert than a beverage.

The summer rolls ($9) with shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce, chive, and basil are high quality. The rice paper skin was not overly soft or hard – perfectly chewy. Shrimp was cooked just right – tasted just lightly poached. It’s a bit pricey for what you get, but definitely higher quality than the usual summer roll.

LAW hates soup noodles (it’s odd) so he got the grilled pork chops ($16) which came with a side of crab cakes and rice. Given all the buzz around the pho, I was pretty certain my dish would win. Looking back, LAW may have won this one. That pork chop was so damn delicious. It had this scallion oil all over it. It was perfectly marinated and charred. Paired with a side of daikon + carrot pickles, it was tres tasty. Crab cake was kinda random. A weird pairing in my opinion. I would rather them get rid of it and lower the price of the dish.

Okay despite the pho buzz, I got the bun bo hue ($16) which is in a spicy lemongrass broth and comes with brisket and cha lua (sausage). Couldn’t say no to spicy + lemongrass… it was very good, 100x better than the crappy place I usually order from in midtown. It was rich and lemongrassy.

The meat was plentiful and had a really nice balance of tendon (YUM). The vermicelli noodles in bun bo hue are different from the pho kind – these ones are rounded while pho noodles are flat. I didn’t like these ones as much because they felt was airy-er. Almost too light. Lacking substance.

Second time I went I got the classic madame pho ($16) (but did not take a photo, sowee). It is made with a broth simmered for 24 hours and served with flat rice noodles, brisket, rare flank (though it wasn’t actually that rare), bone marrow, and meat balls. The broth honestly tasted about as good as most decent Vietnamese places (like Sao Mai or anyplace in Chinatown). The NOODLES however were fantastic. The chewest pho noodles I’ve ever had. Very al dente so to speak.

I wasn’t thrilled to pay $16 for pho, but thinking about it – I easily shell out that much for ramen, and it’s about time we elevated other Asian cuisines. As a kid growing up, I always felt like Chinese food and Vietnamese food were cheap, while Japanese food and Korean food were expensive. Why is that the case?

Madame Vo is definitely higher quality than the usual spot, and the price tag accounts for it. Next up, Hanoi House. Will report back.

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