Pho Nam Noodle
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Becky ate the #29 house rice special (bi, suon cha) - grilled pork chop, egg, combination meats, with a young coconut and a flan.
JM ate the #30 combination fried rice (com chien xa xiu, tom ga) with a limeade.
Nichole ate the #10 pho with beef fillet and soft tendon (pho tai gan) with a young coconut and a warm sticky rice with beans.
We split some vegetarian spring rolls (goi cuon chay).
The bill was about $11/person, plus tip.
Becky gave Pho Nam Noodle a C+; JM gave Pho Nam Noodle a B; Nichole gave Pho Nam Noodle an A (see our grading rubric).
The building that currently contains Salad Creations, Capriotti's and HuHot also houses this little gem. Its proximity to the commercial outcroppings of the stretch between Greenway Station and Target guarantees a fighting chance if the food is good. Interestingly, the dinner time crowd we saw gathered was healthy too - a good sign in a nightime location.
The drinks we tried were fantastic and fun: the saucy-sounding "fresh young coconut" was chopped down to its soft mesocarp and speared with a straw to get at the ice-cold coconut water. Our only regret was that we couldn't reach the meat inside. The fresh-squeezed lemonade was limey and awesome.
We started with a spring roll from the vegetarian menu. The filling was about one-third sliced, browned tofu; one-third tender rice noodles; and one-third vegetation consisting of coconut, jicama, and basil with that good anise overtone. After a couple bites, Becky was not wowed in the least, though she appreciated the side of mild peanut sauce. On the other hand, Nichole was tickled that they included coconut. That's something we haven't seen much in spring rolls around Madison.
Nichole fell for the pho. It's her 6th bowl for A to Z, but it's the first time the flank has come out this rare. It was almost bloody where it had not yet been submerged. The broth was hot, medium clear and quite fragrant, the noodles were slippery, and the salad fresh. The tendon was just OK (Saigon-Noodles remains her favorite for its velvety tendon that surrendered to the slightest pressure).
Becky's #29 (here's Nichole's poor photo) was a variety plate of proteins: seasoned pork chops, "mixed meat" (probably bi, pork skin) in bread crumbs, a small, meaty omelet (probably cha trung), and fried egg over rice with a lettuce/cucumber/tomato/pineapple garnish:
The pork chops tasted good, though I thought they skimped on the serving size. The mixed meat/rubber noodles were not pleasant. However, this could be a cultural issue. It might have been well executed, according to Vietnamese standards, but my Midwestern bias against unknown meats and foods that could potentially function as elastic waist bands kept me from being a good judge.
The fried egg was the best part, especially when the yolk broke into the rice.
Reactions to our desserts were also mixed. The flan was a miss. The warm sticky rice with sweetened black-eyed beans and condensed coconut milk was better.
Nichole would walk through a blizzard for Pho Nam Noodle's pho and coconut treats (that's an A), and JM would offer to drive her even though he didn't get a great deal of satisfaction out of his dinner (a model B), but Becky was less enthused. That we brought her back for her second visit, and she left deciding she'd rather eat elsewhere, perfectly illustrates the difference between what we mean by "B" and what we mean by "C." That said, we all, always, want to hear what makes a place worth coming back to.