Tag Archives: Vietnamese

Pho 777

1063-65 West Argyle,
Chicago IL 60640
773-561-9909

Additional Comments: Closed on Tuesdays

When in Chicago, people think of having Deep Dish Pizza, or Italian  Beef  Sandwiches, or dine in one of the many fine restaurants Chicago has to offer. For us, all we wanted was a bowl of hot Pho. I guess travelling in a foreign land and eating food that is so far removed from your culture makes you really crave some simple comfort foods. Noodle soups are a huge part of our culture, and this was the one thing we craved more than anything else. Our first meal in Chicago was hence a very unlikely one – Pho in Pho 777, a little restaurant in Little Vietnam.

This wasn’t our first choice of restaurant in Little Vietnam. Our host, SY wanted to bring us to Tank, a restaurant she had eaten at. Sadly, it was closed, and it was only a couple of days later that we realized that it had, (excuse the pun), Tanked. Turns out they had failed a health inspection and was forced to close down.

But back to Pho 777. All 3 of us had the Special Pho, which was a bowl of pho noodles with lots of different cuts and variations of beef – tripe, beef balls, sliced beef etc. The broth was very tasty and the noodles were perfectly cooked. This was a very satisfying bowl of Pho. Our one and only complaint would be that they didn’t have any fried calamari on the menu!!! Our all-time favourite Vietnamese restaurant, Viet in London serves this wonderful out of this world fried calamari, and we so wanted to have some form of that dish, but alas, they don’t serve it at Pho 777. (Now, obviously, we’re really nitpicking here…)

Service: 5.5/10
Food: 7/10

Nuocmam

35 Great Portland Street
London W1W 8QQ
0207 631 2099http://www.nuocmam.co.uk/

It was the last day of the academic year, and it was the day we all handed in our summer project reports and gave our final presentations to the lecturers in our department. After a whole year of hard work a celebration was definitely called for. Nuocmam was chosen because it was running a 50% offer on toptable. For some reason we (read: the powers that be) negotiated for a different deal instead: 25% off food and 50% off bottles of wine – which might seem like a fantastic offer if you’re a huge wine drinker, but considering the demographic: poor college students, many of whom don’t even drink in the first place (for various reasons), this deal sucked. But the rest of us (read: those with less say in the way things are run around here) went ahead with the sucky deal anyway, since everything had already been arranged and it was too late to make alternate plans.

The above was just a rant, and has nothing to do with the restaurant, but everything to do with the undemocratic decisions, but I should move on now.

Nuocmam is a rather new Vietnamese/Japanese fusion restaurant near Great Portland Street Tube Station, and it trying very hard to establish itself it seems. Restaurants like Noucmam are a dime a dozen in London nowadays, and to be honest, it’s becoming quite a tired concept now. The selection of food items is what you would come to expect in a restaurant like this, so we didn’t find anything too exciting in the menu. Since we were there to hang out with our coursemates, food was secondary in the whole experience, so we weren’t bothered at all by the uninspiring choices or the quality of the food, which we’ll come to in a minute.

Anyway, we had to order an appetizer and a main in order to enjoy the 25% offer (oh don’t get me started again), so we went with the Dynamite Roll and the Yuzu Squid. The Dynamite Roll was basically a soft shelled crab maki roll, which was nice, but that’s about all we can say about it. It was definitely not as dynamite-ish as its name would suggest. The Yuzu Squid fared a little better. The squid was nice and crispy and the yuzu sauce gave a good tangy burst with each bite.

For our mains we had the Kimchi Miso Lamb and the Slow Braised Pork Belly Broth, with a Stir Fried Egg Noodles as a side (personally we don’t think Asian restaurants should charge extra for serving staples like rice and noodles. They should come included in the meal). The lamb was quite tasty, but nothing special. I suppose with the 50% offer (that we should have got dammit) it could be considered quite good value for money, but on the other hand I think for a truly ‘wow’ experience, go to Roka, or even Tsunami.

The pork belly on the other hand was outstanding. Visually, it got major envious looks from everyone – it was served perched on top of its own little fireplace, and just looked amazing. Tastewise it hit the spot as well – the pork belly was beautifully tender and the broth was very flavourful. Definitely something we would order again. The egg noodles were nice, but oily.

One of our coursemates had the Pan Fried Fillet of Seabass, which was quite delicious as well, the fish very nicely cooked with good flavours, and something worth a try if you ever find yourself in Nuocmam.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 6.5/10

Viet Noodle Bar

34 Greek Street
London W1D 5DJ

We really discovered this place by chance. We took a different route to get to Chinatown one afternoon, and passed Viet Noodle bar. Based on first impressions we wouldn’t have given this a second look, but the thing that amazed us was that it was absolutely packed with customers slurping away at their very large bowls of noodles. We told ourselves that we would definitely need to come and try it out some day.

 

So we did. We went there after one of our exams. It wasn’t the busiest part of dinner service when we entered the restaurant, but it was already quite full. We were ushered to a table right in the corner, and were told that we were to expect to share our table with other customers, if the restaurant did fill up. No sooner than we had placed our order did we have to shuffle to the side to allow another 2 people to share our table. We didn’t really mind, as it was clear by the looks of it that this is no fine establishment – you come in, you eat, you pay and you leave as quickly as possible. In a strange way it was comforting to know that this place is so immensely popular, so the food must be good. Also, it added to the authenticity of the place. Sure, we’re being biased – there would be no chance in hell most other restaurants would get away with asking paying customers to share tables with other customers, but it was such a no frills place that we would have felt bad if we had insisted on having the table to ourselves.

 

Now, onto the food. We had a Vietnamese summer roll – lovely crunchy vegetables rolled in a translucent rice paper wrap. It was the most clichéd of Vietnamese starters to order, but we were glad we ordered it. A was worried that there would be an overdose of those fragrant leaves that are very characteristic of Vietnamese food, which she isn’t a fan of, but this was very well balanced and refreshing. The fish sauce dip was also excellent.

 

We shared a portion of fried squid rings. Those were probably one of the most addictive squid rings we have ever had. There was something oddly irresistible about the batter, and the little bits of fried chili and vegetables that came with the dish as well. The batter was a little too thick, and the squid was a little on the chewy side, but for some strange reason we really liked this dish. The flavors were awesome, and that alone was enough for us to forgive the ‘unrefined-ness’ of the dish.

 

We had the Special Pho (you get a mix of different meats and prawn). The soup was heavenly. It’s a clear broth that just awakes your palate and your appetite. As with all traditional Vietnamese soup mains, this came with a plate of raw beansprouts, sliced chilies and strange ‘herby’ vegetables, most of which we don’t put in our soup at all. In fact, we only put the beansprout in our soup. If there’s one thing that can be improved it would have to be the beansprouts. These weren’t the most juicy or sweet as beansprouts can get. In fact, I think the Sainsbury beansprouts are far more juicy and sweet than the ones at Viet. But that’s nit picking a little. You really cannot go wrong with ordering pho at Viet.

 

We tried the bun as well. This was a very simple looking dish. It was just a lot of vegetables and some beef over a bed of vermicelli. However, it was deceptively flavorful. We have to digress a little to mention the chili sauce, which went really well with everything we ordered. We even added a little in the soup, which made it even more tasty and mindblowing.

Overall, we love Viet. It is literally our favourite find of the year. It’s really hard to find an authentic bowl of pho in London. Some time back we reviewed Pho, a chain of restaurants with some branches in London selling pretty good pho. Well, Viet totally kicks Pho’s ass. Big time. There is a far more authentic feel about Viet, and the food rocks too.

Service: 6/10 (but on our second visit probably a 5/10)
Food: 7.5/10

Pho

3 Great Titchfield Street
London W1W 8AX
020 7436 0111
http://www.phocafe.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday 12-10pm

K loves the soupy-noodley kind of food, so he was very interested to go to Pho, which serves, no prizes for guessing, Vietnamese food. We liked it so much that we went back the next day, so this post combines both our experiences there.

Once again, as with Addie’s Thai Café, the interior looked quite modern, which didn’t lead us to think that it would be authentic Vietnamese. I myself have no experience with Vietnamese food, so I can’t comment on the authenticity, but I can say that the food was good. K thought that it was good as well, but he too is no expert on this cuisine. What we can comment on is the taste, and that we liked.

We had their deep fried vegetable spring rolls. These came with a tasty dipping sauce, and the spring rolls oozed with juice as they were bitten into. We also had the prawn rolls, which came wrapped in clear rice paper. These I didn’t like, as they had too much coriander/mint leaves in them. K loved them though, and thought that they were very fresh and refreshing. On our second visit we had the crepe with prawn and chicken (only available in evenings) which was large enough for a main if you’re not a big eater. The beansprouts in the dish were absolutely delicious, and the crispy crepe went really well with the dipping sauce.

For mains we had the spicy beef brisket pho, the sliced beef pho in clear soup, and the fried flat noodles with chicken. All these came, to K’s delight, with a serving of raw beansprouts on the side. The spicy beef brisket pho looked fiery, but was surprisingly mild. The beef brisket was tender, and we loved it so much we ordered it on both visits.

K absolutely loved the pho in clear soup. He threw in the little fresh cut chilies that were served on the side and the raw beansprouts and dug in with gusto. He felt that the sliced beef was not as yummy as the beef brisket, and made a note to order the beef brisket the next time. (You can get the clear soup with brisket instead of sliced beef.) The pho itself (the noodles) weren’t the most fantastic in the world, but the entire combination of the huge bowl of piping hot noodles and the beansprouts, and the spice, made it comfort food.

We tried the fried flat noodles with chicken on our second visit, and were quite disappointed by it. It was almost tasteless, and reminded us of pad thai, but utterly without character. I’d recommend you go to Addie’s Thai Café for better fried flat noodles.

K had the coffee with condensed milk, which was very rich and good.

Overall, this place is very good for a cheap quick meal. It was very surprising how quickly they got your order to you – there was almost no wait at all. (Though we have to add that they forgot our order the first time we were there, but once they realized it, our orders came almost immediately.) Stick to the noodle soups definitely, and you can’t go wrong.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7/10