Posts Tagged ‘Vietnamese’

Pho Big Bowl – 12/11/11

No Website

Location: 2248 NW Market St


Mon-Sun: 10am-10pm

Sunday was cold and damp so we decided it was the perfect weather for a bowl of pho. Pho Big Bowl sits at the west end of Market Street, near La Isla and Anne’s Teriyaki. It’s another restaurant on that block that would be perfectly at home in a strip mall. A simple interior of formica tables and the type of chairs I’m beginning to identify with cheap Asian restaurants. Other than a few spring rolls, the menu consists entirely of pho in bowls of varying sizes.

The Service:

The pho came out super quick and the staff was friendly.

The Drink:

Every bowl of pho comes with a can of soda so J had a Sprite. I was kind of chilled so I opted for Green Tea which was pretty bland.

The Food:

J ordered the Pho Tai Chin, noodle soup with medium rare eye round and brisket. Surprisingly good. The meat was flavorful, cooked to a perfect medium rare that continued to cook in the hot broth. Unlike the pho at Pho Than Bros, this meat looked and tasted like beef which gave the already good broth an extra punch of flavor. The small size was the perfect amount.

I chose the Pho Ga, noodle soup with shredded chicken. The chicken was moist and tender. The broth was good on its own but adding Thai basil, lime, and a little Sriracha gave it an even richer flavor. The noodles weren’t mushy. Overall quite tasty.

The Price:

Pho Tai Chin: 4.85

Pho Ga: 4.85

Green Tea: 1.00

The Verdict:

Pho Big Bowl totally surprised us. After our visit to Pho Than Bros, neither of us was particularly looking forward to another pho restaurant. The fresh ingredients and flavorful meat completely changed our minds about pho. I can understand why a bowl of piping hot pho would be lovely on a cold, winter day. I know I’d like to try the vegetable pho for it variety of veggies so we will be back.

If you have the choice between Pho Than Bros and Pho Big Bowl, choose Pho Big Bowl. You won’t be sorry.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , , ,

Vietnam Café & Sandwich – 11/5/11

No Website

Location: 5701 15th Ave NW


Mon-Fri: 11am-8pm

Saturday: 11am-7pm

Sunday: Closed

Vietnam Café and Sandwich is located on the corner of 15th and 57th in what was, for half a second, a Peruvian coffee house. It’s a sparse space of the teriyaki joint mold. A short order counter. A few tables and chairs. A kitchen tucked behind a ¾ tall wall. They offer a menu of Vietnamese dishes, ranging from spring rolls to bahn mi to various versions of rice and/or noodle entrees along with tea, soda, and bubble tea.

The Service:

The guy at the counter was super friendly. Our food came out piece meal because it seemed like he was the only person working.

The Drink:

J and I shared a pot of mild green tea. J wasn’t all that impressed with the tea though I thought its flavor was perfectly fine.

The Food:

I’ve been searching for a Fried Tofu appetizer as good as the one at Boom Noodle so I ordered Vietnam Café’s version. These lightly fried chunks of tofu were piping hot but not crispy at all. Kind of rubbery, to be honest. The salt and pepper was obviously shaken directly from a generic salt and pepper shaker.

I ordered a Pork BBQ Sandwich, a toasted French baguette with stir fried pork, homemade mayo, sautéed cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots. The mayo was quite good with a spicy aftertaste. The vegetables, especially the daikon and cucumber, were incredibly fresh with just a hint of a vinegary, pickled taste. The sandwich could’ve had more pork though. What little was there got lost in the huge baguette and the vegetables. The flavor was a bit too mild, as well, but it was nicely caramelized.

J had the Hu Tieu Soup, pork broth with yellow noodles, grilled chicken, steamed pork, fried onion, chives, and cilantro. Tasty. The yellow noodles were real, Asian style noodles rather than spaghetti. The chicken was really flavorful with a delicious, grilled flavor. The pork tasted like real pork. The broth was very good. J made the comment, while eating, that if pho tasted like this soup, he’d like it way more.

The Price:

Fried Tofu: 4.50

Pork BBQ Sandwich: 5.00

Hu Tieu Soup: 7.50

The Verdict:

Even though the fried tofu and my sandwich left a bit to be desired, there was enough potential in what the Vietnam Café offered that we would return. The ingredients were extremely fresh and J really enjoyed his soup. Frankly, even with the issues, the food there was way better than any of the teriyaki joints in Ballard. Another plus is that it’s only a block from our apartment. If you like cheap, fast Asian fare, give them a try.

Ballard Restaurant News – September

Twin brothers reopening Bad Albert’s in October.

New Vietnamese Restaurant to open on 15th.

Piada Italia/Seattle burger Company closed before we made it there. Too bad, a friend claimed the burgers were awesome.

Seattle Weekly talks Manhattans at Paratii Craft Bar.

Harlow’s Saloon closes … only to open soon as a Scottish themed bar.

Two empty storefronts in Ballard have liquor license applications in their windows:

On Leary, across the street from Sunny Teriyaki: Belle Clementine

On Ballard Ave, across the street from the Tractor Tavern: Bardot.

Pho Than Brothers – 8/29/11


Location: 2021 NW Market St


Mon-Sun: 11am-9pm

After a hectic weekend spent Downtown at the Penny Arcade Expo (Pax), J and I finally managed to squeeze in a Ballard restaurant. Since we mostly ate heavy food … burgers, Mexican, etc … we opted for pho at Pho Than Brothers for lunch on Monday.

Pho Than Brothers is a local chain located on Market Street, in the same strip mall as Thai Thani. In a spare, bright dining space, they serve only one thing, Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Each huge bowl comes with a plate of condiments (bean sprouts, Vietnamese basil, jalapeno peppers, lime) and a cream puff.

Time for a bit of honesty. Both J and I have tried pho and neither of us has ever been that impressed. J prefers the thicker noodles of Japanese udon and, other than Greek avgolemono soup, I’m not much of a soup person but we were willing, for the sake of this project, to give pho another try.

The Service:

Astonishingly fast.

The Drinks:

J ordered a can of Moutain Dew (aka Gamer Fuel), having not had enough at Pax.

I chose the Hot Chrysanthemum Tea that was quite nice with a honey sweet, floral flavor.

The Food:

J had the Pho Bo Vien, rice noodle soup with meatballs and extra noodles. Once he added an array of condiments, including plum and Sriracha sauce, he felt the broth was quite nice. However, the “meatballs” tasted more like slices of vaguely meat-flavored sponges than a traditional meatball. Their texture was very unappetizing.

I ordered the Pho Bo Tai Chin, rice noodle soup with sliced eye-round and brisket. Before adding the same condiments as J, I found the broth to be rather flavorless. It seems like the broth is a canvas for the other flavors to mingle. Once the additions were made, the doctored broth was the best thing about my bowl of pho. At least my choice of meat actually tasted like meat. The brisket was tender but lacked flavor, as did the thin slices of eye-round.

The cream puffs were okay. The sugary cream filling overwhelmed the rather light puff part.

The Price:

Can of Mountain Dew: 1.00

Hot Chrysanthemum Tea: 1/25

Medium Pho Bo Vien with extra noodles: 6.35

Medium Pho Bo Tai Chin: 5.75

The Verdict:

Pho Than Brothers did nothing to change our opinion of pho. The flavorless meat and weird texture of the meatballs overwhelmed the tasty (doctored) broth. Neither of us plans on returning to Pho Than Brothers, especially since pho is the only thing on the menu.

That being said, on some cold, winter night, I may give pho another chance … at Monkey Bridge where I know they use high quality ingredients.

Categories: Restaurants Tags: , , ,

The Monkey Bridge – 8/13/11


Location: 1723 NW Market St


Mon-Sun: 10:30am – 9:30pm

For a change of pace, we invited our friend, Fonz, to be a guest reviewer for the project. He’s a great cook, a lover of good food and the guy who introduced J and I. When I gave him the list of restaurants we had yet to review, Fonz, who loves Asian cuisine, chose Ballard’s only Vietnamese restaurant, the Monkey Bridge.

The Monkey Bridge is located in an odd, triangular, corner storefront right on Market Street, across the street from the Old Pequliar. It’s a small, rather tidy restaurant with stylish décor with hints of an Asian theme. There are only a few tables so the Monkey Bridge does tend to fill up quickly in the evenings.

Their menu contains a number of dishes with ingredients you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Ballard. With interesting choices like Vietnamese Rhubarb and Beef and Crab Paste and Pork Noodle Soup mixed with more familiar Vietnamese fare, Pho and Bahn Mi, the Monkey Bridge is a refreshing change from the usual sushi, Thai, and teriyaki choices.

The Service:

Our server was polite and knowledgeable. When Fonz and I stared to order Sapphoro, she suggested we try a Vietnamese beer they had just received. During the meal, each dish came out at a nice pace. Good service overall.

The Drinks:

J, who was getting over a mild stomach bug, opted for a pot of refreshing Jasmine Tea.

Fonz and I tried the Vietnamese beer suggested to us by our server. Sabeco turned out to be a rather mild, Pilsner style beer with roasted malt overtones. A nice, light beer that wasn’t too hoppy but had enough character to keep it from being bland. Surprisingly awesome.

The Food:

First we were brought three bowls of Congee, a rice and chicken soup with ginger, scallions and topped with dried onion chips. J and Fonz thought the creamy soup was “off the hook”. I wasn’t as fond of the soup, finding it a bit gluey in texture, although the dried onion chips did give it a little texture. The boys liked it so much that not only did Fonz finish my bowl but also they declared it the best thing of the meal.

We ordered two appetizers. The Fried Tofu, lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper, was quite good. There was a nice contrast between the crispy fried exterior and the creamy, moist interior. Personally, I thought it could have used a little more salt and pepper but the boys thought it was perfect the way it was. The tofu came with a plum dipping sauce that was so tasty, we used it throughout the meal for other items.

Our second appetizer was the Garlic Mini Chicken Drumsticks. All three of us felt these drumsticks were a bit dry and lacked flavor. If an item is given the adjective “Garlic”, one would think the garlic flavor would be at the forefront. There really wasn’t anything garlicy about this appetizer. Pretty disappointing.

Fonz ordered the Vietnamese Curry Chicken with potatoes and carrots, served with jasmine rice for his entrée. After taking the first bite, he admitted that, while not a fan of curries in general, this dish was quite good. The curry sauce was surprisingly sweet in a pleasant way, with a subtle, spicy curry flavor. Everything, from the tender chicken to the slightly crunchy potatoes and carrots, was cooked perfectly. Fonz definitely seemed to enjoy his choice.

J had the Monkey Bridge House Special Rice Noodles, a bowl of rice noodles topped with sautéed pork and onion, a sliced egg roll, and a prawn skewer. Even though there was a lot of food in this dish, J found it surprisingly light. Every component was quite tasty. The pork was fork tender. The egg roll was good and crunchy. He did feel like the prawn skewer was kind of overkill though. It was flavorful but he ended up eating it like an appetizer rather than as part of the entrée.

My entrée of choice was the Garlic-Lemongrass Beef Ribs with Vietnamese salad and brown rice. The kalbi cut ribs were quite good. Tender and seared just enough to give a caramelized flavor to the marinade. While the marinade did have the soft, bright lemongrass flavor I was hoping for, the garlic flavor was far too subtle, just like it was with the chicken drumstick appetizer. I’ve made my own garlic-lemongrass marinade so I know how well these flavors compliment each other when of equal strength and this dish was missing that delicious mix of tastes.

The salad was forgettable other than it had way too much shredded cabbage and the brown rice paled, both in flavor and color, in comparison to the brown rice at Thai Thani.

The Price:

Jasmine Tea: 2.00

Sabeco Beer: 4.00 ea

Fried Tofu: 4.50

Garlic Mini Chicken Drumsticks: 7.15

Vietnamese Curry Chicken: 10.15

Monkey Bridge House Special Rice Noodles: 10.40

Garlic-Lemongrass Beef Ribs: 10.65

The Verdict:

Overall I would say our meal at the Monkey Bridge was pretty good. The service was fine. Other than a couple of missteps, the food was tasty enough for us to explore other dishes. I’d especially like to try their version of a bahn mi (Vietnamese Baguette on their menu) since I’ve see those mentioned on many a food/travel program.

I think what it has going for it is it’s diversity. J put it best, Monkey Bridge is “a nice alternative to the millions of Thai places and lack of good Chinese food”. Sure their entrees run a couple of dollars more than the typical Asian fare in Ballard but the variety of choices, portion size and fresh ingredients make up for that.

We’ll be back to try something new and different after the project ends if not before. Now if only Ballard would get a good Korean restaurant …

And a big thank you to Fonz for joining us. Feel free to do so again anytime.