Last night’s, post–Make Music New York dinner was at Pho Grand. Despite the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants in Chinatown NYC, we tend to go where we know and, yes, order the exact same thing…every time. There is something to be said for the three C’s (cheap, consistent and comforting) and one Y (yummy!) on a rainy Sunday evening…
Start with the cha gio Vietnamese spring roll: pork spring rolls. Dry the lettuce with the crappiest napkins on the planet—and place the spring roll inside, add in the mint and your choice of chili condiments from the lazy susan. Dip it all in the nuoc mam sauce and chomp away.
Next have the bo luc lac marinated beef cubes sauteed with salad: a warm, chunky beef and onion salad on romaine with nasty, usually pink tomatoes that I, at least, ignore, eaten with rice. The beef can be a bit chewy at times, but the moreish sauce with the onions and the rice are addictive and you get over the texture of the beef when you look at the price ($8.50)—it ain’t filet mignon.
Have the banh hoi thit heo nuong grilled pork on tiny rice stick with lettuce cucumbers and mini leaves: thin slices of marinated and grilled pork topped with finely chopped peanuts, on a bed of tiny rice stick (noodle) pancakes. You put the pancake and the pork in a lettuce leaf (more drying) with cucumber slices, sweet pickled daikon radish, carrots, baby shallots and mint leaves and dip it all in more nuoc mam sauce. Then we have tom ram muoi shrimp dressed with a little salt and served with pepper, onion and fried butter: deep-fried whole shrimp on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce and topped with soused scallions and served with a sweet chili sauce. You can eat the whole thing!
If we are feeling in the mood and, yes, a little piggy, we also get a pho tai combination rice-noodle beef soup with fresh eye of round and share that. Pho is a classic Vietnamese beef soup with a rich star-anise-seasoned beef stock over rice stick (rice noodles) and served with lemon, Asian basil and bean sprouts. It is the specialty of the house, hence the name. If you are really adventurous you can get it with any number of beef-cut combos like brisket navel, frank, omosa (tripe) or tendon, but as I am not a huge fan of offal we get it with just beef. It is the perfect dish for a wintry night and even though it was the first day of summer it was the right way to warm up from the river that has been June ’09 in NYC.
We do not order in courses. This is just the order that the food usually comes when we order it all together. This is all happily washed down with beer, although making sure it is cold before they open it is a suggestion. My sober friends like their sinh to sau rieng durian juice. It’s not bad, but I would not drink an entire glass of it. You will use a zillion napkins!!! If you are feeling green, you might want to consider bringing a cloth napkin from home…
Pho Grand Vietnamese Restaurant
277 Grand Street, New York 10002 (between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets)