So, we went to this Vietnamese/Chinese place on Convoy. It's called Phuong Trang.
Here's the website:
So the menu is very large and overwhelming - much like Saigon. Funnily enough, the one really good server who used to work at Saigon works at Phuong Trang. So after laboring over the menu, I went for the pork soup. It was so fucking delicious. The broth was nice and flavorful. It came with what I think was thick bean noodles. They were nice and hearty, and the pork was excellent. The chive and mint and everything made it just a great bowl of soup. As the Food Pimp said - it was a Vietnamese Pho with a Chinese flair - well, he said something like that.
So the Food Pimp got the these manila clams sauteed in like a black bean sauce. It was rich and light and spicy and very exciting. He was pretty much having a tonguegasm right there at the table. So I think this place is going to take the ranks with the Dumpling Inn. We've only had 2 dishes, but based on those 2 things, I'm going to give it \/\/\/\/ 8 chopsticks out of 8!
So then the next week we went to Saigon. Hadn't been there for a while. We didn't remember any of the waiters, but, we were there around 9 or so, a little after they had opened on a Saturday or Sunday. The FP had the combination pho, and I got the bean curd wrapped shrimp vermicelli noodle bowl. We also got the eggrolls, because I wanted some, even though we usually didn't like them there. They were okay. They came first, so we ate most of them. They were very hot. They have like noodles and veggies in them, but the veggies are so small and cooked that they don't really have any texture.
I really have been jonesing for my mom's lumpia. They were so simple, but goddamn they were good. I have been wanting to make them, but it's such an undertaking and I'm lazy. I should have a lumpia party and get people over to roll them for me. It's really not a big deal once you've got everything set up, it's just that in order to make it worthwhile, I always feel like I should use the whole pack of wrappers if I have enough filling for it. The way my mom makes them are with carrot, green beans - fresh ones - shrimp, ground pork, garlic, and not much else that I remember. Those are just great flavor combinations to be wrapped in thin wrappers and deep fried. I remember I used to make them in college. I guess I had a lot of time then - between class and watching my stories and going to the mall and going to the clubs. Wow, how did I ever find time to make lumpia back then? Oh yeah, I didn't work. I was a lazy fatass college student with very gigantic legs - especially my calves, which have always been huge - due to walking a lot and my poor eating habits - like making a meal out of those Snackwells devil food cakes. Which I think is pretty funny. They are supposed to be "healthy or less fattening" but I figured a way to get around the system, eat a whole box. And I wasn't a weed smoker either.
Alright, not like I eat like a model of health now....
So I got my bun (vermicelli noodle bowl for you non-vietnamese cuisine schoolel people), and it was pretty good. Sometimes they skimp on the cabbage and peanut and all the goodies, but there was enough of that stuff, it was just crammed in the bottom of the bowl. This is my one gripe about vermicelli noodle bowls. Why do they always have to cram as much food as possible in the bowl? Why not use a bigger bowl and put the same amount so that one can mix it all around? Now, this is a gripe with a lot of cuisine - salad and pasta are always crammed in a small vessel. Don't the cooks and chefs know that people want room to mix everything around? Especially the bun, because they put all the garnish on the bottom and the top, and the middle 2/3 is just noodles. Anyway, besides that, the dish was very good. The bean curd was nicely cooked and flavored, and I always like dumping the nuoc mam all over my bowl rather than dipping into the little sauce container. I really don't know the etiquette with this, but I really don't care - I'm American! We do things the way we like. Because we can!
So about 10 minutes after I got my food, the pho finally came out. The FP said it was delicious, which was a surprise. We had both wondered if the broth would be weak because it was early in the morning, but it was not. And all his meats were nicely tender too. So we had a very pleasant quiet breakfast at good old Saigon. I give it \/\/\/ 6 chopsticks. It can be very good sometimes, but it is inconsistent. And I have to say after discovering Convoy street, Saigon has lost its romance for me. Sorry Miss Saigon....but I'll come stop in every once in a while, give you a twenty....
So then on Saturday we went to a new place on Convoy Street. We just went to a random shopping center and picked this Korean place called Chon Ju Jip. Can you believe they have the name posted in English characters on the facade? Amazing. So we went in, and there were about 2 tables occupied, and one or two tables with food still on the table. But everything we saw looked good. So we sat. The lady brought us that green tea that a lot of Korean restaurants serve. The funny thing was, it was iced. Usually it's just room temperature. On this particular day, it was cold, and the door was opened, and I would probably have almost preferred the room temperature tea. But it was really tasty. Very nutty, you could taste the brown rice, but you could also taste the green tea as well.
So we perused the menu. It was small, but about half of the menu was those casseroles and dinners that start at $20 a pop. So we didn't really have money, so I didn't even want to look at that stuff. There was the typical soups, and a few appetizers. After the last Korean place, I didn't really want soup. Even though the FP pointed out how there was soy sauce and salt on the tables. He was very happy about that.
So he got the pork and kimchee soup. That is his Korean restaurant control item. I felt like potstickers. So I ordered those and the fried octopus. The lady didn't really speak engrish, so here we were again, me having a communication gap. She was asking if I wanted them steamed or fried, and she was pointing to the Korean words. I was confused though, because I don't read or even speak Korean, and it said fried on the menu. So she was trying to ask if I wanted fried or steamed, and I was trying to make sure that she knew I wanted the potstickers and then the octopus which was the menu item directly below the potstickers. So she left the table, and I was 98% sure I wasn't getting the octopus. So we got our little side dishes. They were good on the whole, but the outstanding things were the little dried dilis (little teeny anchovies) in chili sauce, this dried marinated beef that was like sauteed, these green pickled peppers, and then the water spinach (or some green like that) with a little tofu sauteed with it. The bean sprout was flavorless as usual, as was the plain water spinach. The kimchee was okay, good, but not exciting.
The FP thought his soup was very good. It looked good. I only really had a taste of the broth, and it was all spiced up and porky goodness. The only thing was, he didn't really have any pork in it. He found one slice of fatty at the very bottom. He said it was delicious and it made the dish more disappointing to have one piece then to have none at all. It was like a Shakespearian tradgedy,
"oh to have known that voluptuous flesh, but to only get a small morsel, a tease on the tongue, I prayed that this pleasure would not ever be known to me, that the knowlege of the memory be erased. To sit in the dark and never have known light is less painful than to have remembered the light as I sat in the dark, and my eyes and my skin ache with the gentle kiss of the heavenly rays of the sun..."
So, he liked it. I got my potstickers. They were good. Ground pork and veggies. Nothing special. The FP was sure they were brought in frozen. Maybe they were. So after a little while, I asked about my octopus. The lady looked at me and said, oh, no, no octopus. Oh, okay. Good to know. So I had 7.5 gyoza for lunch. I didn't want anything else. There were no other appetizers that caught my eye, and I didn't want a whole soup, because I knew 2/3 of it would go to waste. So just judging on this experience, I give Chon Ju Jip \/\/\ 5 chopsticks - for the dilis - little fishes, the beef side dish and the pork soup that the FP really liked. That may be too generous, but that was the first time we had the fishes and the beef as side dishes at a Korean restaurant.
And those fishes remind me of my heritage. They sell them in plastic jars, like the ones you would put candy in, in the Asian markets. Before, when I used live closer to my parents and I would go there every so often, I would invariably end up with one of those plastic jars of fish. We would have them forever. I started using them in my cooking, in sauces, vinaigrettes, and one time when our friend was making gumbo on the Food Pimp's birthday, he threw a handful of the dilis in the gumbo. It was one of the best unstructured gumbos I have ever had - no roux, no okra, no file. Anyway, I think the spicy dilis won the extra chopstick. I went to Hing Long Vietnamese Market today. I wish I would have thought and bought some of those dilis...