Pho and Cafe Saigon

I wanted to try Pho and Cafe Saigon, upon the recommendation of our friend Jake and the pre-tested menu by Josh.  It’s also only a few block from our house, so it was the choice place to impulse buy dinner before I had to jet off to roller derby practice.

Since this was my first real foray into ANY kind of truly Asian restaurant, I was a little intimidated by the curt service and the fact that the people who frequent this joint really are Vietnamese, and speak the language.  I can only imagine how obnoxious us whities are to the owners (who did set up a restaurant in the middle of Penn-land, so I guess I can’t feel too sorry for them).

Josh and I kept it safe.  He got a rice flake platter, and I went for the brisket Pho.  I like “nasty-bits” so I probably would have really enjoyed some beef tendon, but I will just have to go back for it.  Not that going back is going to be a problem: This Pho was delicious!  The brisket was tender, and actually what I am always expecting when I order brisket at a BBQ place.  The condiments we enjoyable.  The noodles were chewy, had a nice texture and really soaked up the flavor of the broth.  And that broth!  I also really enjoyed how hands-on Pho is.  It’s kind of cathartic to go through the ritual of adding the noodles, hot sauce, meats, and bean sprouts into the broth, letting them soak, then eating slowly with chopsticks and a spoon.

We got take-out this time, so no opinions are really necessary on the decor or service (although they had some pretty sweet looking fish tanks in there).  All I can say is, if you haven’t gotten in on the Pho craze yet, you definitely should try it out at Pho and Cafe Saigon.

Menu (from menupages)

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Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

Nan Zhou is a neighborhood joint in Philly’s China Town.  It’s a quaint place, but the food is ohmagoarshuhmazing.  Try it.  You wont be disappointed.

The Food

Appetizer: Coconut Curry Chicken Dumplings

Holly called this “whitey-bait” and I don’t know how I feel about it. It is true that coconut curry chicken as a dumpling filler is in no way a traditional filling, but at the same time it was a perfectly cooked dumpling. They asked me if I wanted steamed or fried (and I laugh in my head at the thought of steaming anything) and they were perfectly cooked and crisp.

The Soups!

What a bowl of soup. Despite the temptation of rice flake noodles, we both went with the eponymous hand drawn noodles which were aces. The broth was really flavorful and satisfying without being overly fatty.  Hooked up with chili oil and soy sauce, we spent 15 minutes just slurping noodles in foodie silence.

Culturally challenged beware: it may be extremely hard to eat with the utensils given (Chinese soup spoon and chopsticks. Josh is a noob with chopsticks. Holly rocked it). Also know that there will be bones in the duck, and the beef tendon is really gelatinous and chewy.  This is part of the enjoyment of the food!

The Design

This is probably one of the best examples of classic Asian restaurants trying to look “designed.”  Basically, it was the same wooden chairs and cheesy Asian “art” on the walls, combined with what seems like a ubiquitous love for neon thanks to the blue lighting accents in the ceiling.  But really, the design doesn’t matter here.  I don’t give a damn about ambiance when it take 5 minutes for my food to arrive and I’m too busy eating to notice that the place isn’t pretty anyway.

The Overall Experience

You know a place is going to be great when it’s hoppin’ at 2pm, and the only people there are ethnically and culturally the “proper” eaters of the food being served.  We were the only white folks there, until when we were about to leave and a strange middle-aged dude came in and tried to sound like he knew what was up as he ordered half the menu. (One of the servers was eating her lunch, and he asked her what it was, to which she replied “wonton soup” although clearly there was some kind of nasty-bits meat in it, possibly some kind of testicle.  I think she made the right choice in telling him to order something boring).

The Receipt

Very, very affordable. Dumpling were $6 for eight medium to large sized dumpling and our giant soup bowls were $8 a piece as well. If you want a good, affordable lunch in China Town this is definitely a place we would recommend.

Our Ratings

Drinks: n/a

Food: 5/5

Design: 1/5

Service: 3/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again: Yes. Couldn’t keep us away if you tried.