I've been a long time lurker and have now decided to write my first review in AZ. Originally an East Coast Chowhound I've had my fare share of Pho from Boston, New York, Philly and all the way up to Toronto and Montreal. Tonight my GF and I tried Anise (Chandler) our final pho tour stop this week. So far we've tried Noodles Ranch(Scottsdale), Saigon Pho(Chandler), Yen Min(Chandler) , Cyclo(Chandler) and Dragon Fly(Mesa). Whewww!...6 restaurants in 7 days. One good thing about vietnamese cuisine is how affordable it is and thank goodness it was. We generally ordered the same thing in each restaurant with exception to Cylco and Anise. In each place my GF would order the Pho Ga(chicken) and I would order the traditional rice plate which includes bbq pork or beef, shredded pork linings and a pork quiche. We also would start off with an order of spring rolls. Here is our ranking...
1. Dragon Fly...This place was hands down the best of the group. The pho was exceptionally fragrant but the winner was definitely my rice dish. Dragon Fly was the only place who topped off my rice plate with the traditional pork cracklings (very addictive) which i've only noticed on the east coast. Definitely bonus pts!
2. Cyclo...As much as I wanted to hate this place this was a favorite of my GF. I've heard mixed reviews but after dining here I can see why it's a popular choice with the hip local crowd and not so much the crowds (asian families) i've noticed at the other places. My GF has Pho Ga which she said was her favorite and I ordered 3 apps which has been recommended on the board. I tried the beef carpaccio, tamarind short ribs and the soy glazed wings. Loved the carpaccio and short ribs but the wings were just ok. They tasted like The Vine wings covered in hoisin sauce and chili paste. $5 for 4 wings?...give me a break!
3. Anise...Of all the places we visited this restaurant was by far the nicest looking and most expensive of all the bunch. Our checks usually hover around $18 for 2 entrees and one apps. Here it was $24.75 still a bargain but the price point was $2.50-$4 more per entree than the rest. At Anise I switched thing up and tried the Mi Kho Dac Biet (Dry egg noodle with bbq pork, shrimp fritters and ground pork) It was served with a side bowl of soup. This dish is a staple in many vietnamese restaurant but Anise is the only one that served it on our tour. It was delicious but for $9.75 the portions were rather skimpy. My GF wanted to order her Pho Ga but was told they only served the beef version. The Pho was decent but again it's kinda hard to mess up unless you're Yen Mi which my rant is coming. Anise is the newest of the vietnamese bunch in Chandler and will quickly become a favorite.
4. Noodles Ranch...We tried this hidden jewel because the GF lives across the street. I thought the decoration was quite traditional just like Cyclo and gave the space a funky vibe. Just like Cyclo the owners were very lively and talkative with us. The Pho Ga serving was the smallest we've had but still very tasty. They didn't have my traditional rice dish so I went with the Bun Thit Noung (Vermicelli noodles with bbq pork and egg rolls) This is a great dish when the weather outside is 100 plus. The cold noodles and vegetables mixed with the hot bbq pork and egg roll was a welcomed contrast. Of all the vietnamese restaurant we tried Noodles Ranch broke the traditional vietnamese dessert offering of tri-color shakes and replaced it with 3 homemade desserts. The banana bread pudding was a huge hit!
5. Saigon Pho...It's decent and with an average check of $12.00 (pho ga $4.95, rice plate $4.50 and spring rolls $2.50) before tax and tip how can you complain?
6. Yen Mi...The worst of all the restaurant we've tried. Everything from the service, food and atmosphere was horrible. First the food. My GF's Pho Ga had a pool of oil on top of what looked like McDonald's chicken mcnuggets but without the crispy coating. This is the first Pho she didn't finish half of. My rice plate was no better. The traditional shredded pork linings were nowhere to be found and the pork itself was drier than chicken mcnugget things in my gf's Pho. As for the service it was kinda hard to eat with one of the bussers constantly yelling randomly while he was bussing. After a few minutes it dawned on me he wasn't doing this on purpose but was some kind of terets (sp?). The space looked like a storage room for Le Le's supermarket and with the high ceilings the yelling was rather annoying.
Well I guess this concludes my first ever posting for AZ hounds. Also I just wanted to thank everyone in AZ for the fine suggestions. Because of you guys I've tried so many different restaurants since moving here from Boston. Some of my favorites, Los Sumbreros, Phoenix City Grille, Roaring Fork, Cafe Boa, Barrio Cafe, Kaz Bar, Pizzeria Bianco etc... Thanks for all your input. Now all I need is a place that serves fried clams (big bellies)!