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. Continue reading
203 1st Ave
(between 13th St & 12th St)
New York, NY 10003
These nights have been cold. Normally on a cold winter night, I’ll crave something hot and hearty. But the heaviness of Thanksgiving dinner (with some leftovers still in the fridge, like J.W.’s shepherd’s pie which I had for lunch two days in a row…) has made me crave hot foods that are light. How many of those can you think of?
Vietnamese food is overall one of the healthier cuisines. It uses more natural herbs for flavoring and tends to use water or broth over oil. Pho is the perfect combination of hot and light. A bowl of pho consists of rice noodles in a beef broth made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, ginger, and other spices. Compared to other noodle soups, pho is definitely a much lighter option. The rice noodles are almost airy and compensate by being great soup sponges. The soup is flavorful but still clear, allowing you to drink up every last drop without feeling sick (this also depends on how much MSG the restaurant uses). Continue reading
Bo Ky Restaurant (or New Bo Ky Restaurant)
80 Bayard St
(between Mulberry St & Mott St)
New York, NY 10013
Y.P. wanted pho. I don’t have Vietnamese food very often for some reason… not too sure why because I love pho and love this one whole roasted fish dish that you pick at and wrap in rice wrappe sheets – anyone know what it’s called? I was going to be in the Financial District area so looked up the best pho place in the area and found Bo Ky.
The restaurant reminded me of those typical Chinese fastfood places in Hong Kong where people slurp up their wonton noodle soups in suits, leave cash on the table, and head back to their busy lives. We came on a weekday for lunch and the place was surprisingly packed with mostly solo diners. You are expected to share tables and to leave as soon as possible.
I didn’t actually see pho on the menu, though everything they had was “pho-like”. They had a number of other noodle dishes, as well as some appetizers such as the Salted Water Duck, which I saw many order. People came in as regulars and ordered without even looking at the menu. I felt pretty n00by needing a menu and taking more than 3 minutes to decide. I ended up getting the Cambodian Noodle Soup ($5), which had a typical pho-like broth (supposedly made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, onion, ginger, and spices) but instead of the usual condiments, had pork slices, shrimp, and fish balls with half-cooked bean sprouts.
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.
Xe May Sandwich Shop
96 Saint Marks Pl
New York, NY 10009
Banh Mi is a gastronomic example of French colonialism in Vietnam. The sandwich uses French and Vietnamese ingredients, combined to produce a delectable East-meets-West concoction. The Hog is a speciality banh mi that Xe May serves up with grilled pork, scallion oil, and fried shallots, all sandwiched between either a white or whole wheat baguette. Like classic banh mis, this banh mi also includes fresh cilantro, pickled carrots, daikons, cucumbers, and chili mayo.
I was looking for a cheap place for lunch and found Xe May through Yelp as one of the highest rated places in the East Village area. And though my expectations were high (4.5 stars is pretty significant!), I was not disappointed! The bread had a nice crisp edge that I’m sure would sound beautiful if I had the chance to listen to it, like how Colette from Ratatouille tells us to listen for the sound of the crust.* Oh, and the bread comes in whole wheat too if you’d like. The fillings were tasty: grilled pork tasted a bit like char siu (Chinese bbq pork) and pickles were nice and sour to cut the sweetness of the pork. The fried shallots were not quite crispy enough as they wilted very quickly after being caught amidst the saucy meat and juicy pickles.