For weeks, my coworker had been offering to take me to Chinatown after I revealed to her that I have never actually eaten in Chinatown. Shocked, she was indeed. So one rainy Monday evening, we set out on an excursion downtown for a Vietnamese feast at Pho Bang Restaurant. Like most Chinatown establishments, the restaurant didn’t look like anything special on the outside (or inside, for that matter), but the big bowls of steaming Pho were just what we needed to start the week off on the right culinary foot.
Going into this meal, for whatever reason, I was most excited for the Vietmanese-style coffee, served pour-over style with condensed milk on the bottom. I’m a big believer in the pour-over coffee brewing method. Cups of coffee brewed this way are always clean and full of flavor. This coffee was full of flavor, indeed. You can actually see how strong it is in the picture. Sadly, the coffee got cold quickly (not sure that the water was hot enough), but the first half of the cup was strong and sweet, and it perked me right up after a long Monday better than any cocktail could have.
Next, it was on to the Spring Rolls. My coworker guided me through the process of wrapping my spring roll in a lettuce leaf and dressing it with mint leaves and various sauces. Filled with pork and bamboo shoot, crisp on the outside, wrapped in cool fresh lettuce leaves and mint, these were the perfect salty, savory start to our meal. This had the perfect balance and variation of flavors, temperatures, and textures.
The entree was my first Pho experience. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle dish in beef broth, usually served with beef. And it is quite delicious and especially comforting on a brisk, dreary day. I had the Pho with “fresh” brisket, which is served pink, but cooks up a bit more in the broth. My coworker had the Pho with brisket, tendon, and omosa (tripe).
My favorite part about eating Pho was that you can make it your own. It’s served with sprouts, basil, lime, and sriracha. I added basil, lots of lime, and a little bit of sriracha to mine. The lime really stood out and brought a brightness to the pho. My bowl was filled to the brim, so the sprouts wouldn’t fit! But there’s always next time…
I was in SHOCK when the check came. This meal was $10. My lunch is often more expensive. It’s safe to say I will no longer be a stranger to Chinatown, or Pho Bang. Especially now that I discovered the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for dessert.
^ Sweet Almond Cookie Icecream in a Sugar Cone (ALWAYS a Sugar Cone).
Pho Bang Restaurant
157 Mott Street
New York, NY
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard Street
New York, NY