On the heels of J. Slab's excellent review (see link below), we drove from Queens, braving the traffic on I-95 and the congested insanity of Jerome Avenue, to get to this wonderful corner eatery(Jerome and 193rd Street). Though hard to improve on the Porkchop Express write-up, I feel strongly enough about Phung Hung to give it its' own thread here, and to help spread the word.
Chef/owner and jack-of-all-trades (he also has a degree in engineering) David Nguyen greeted us by saying "This food is real Vietnamese". Issues of authenticity aside - I'll leave that to others to debate - what's apparent is that the man stands by his food, and cooks from the heart.
Being Bahn Mi enthusiasts, we started off with two sandwiches, the #1 with pork and ham, and the #3, with meatballs. Though not voluminous as, say, the version served up at Ba Xuyen in Brooklyn, Phung Hung still turns out a very good one: crisp, fresh bread, playing off of the strong, fresh flavors. It easily ranks with the best in NYC. That said, we didn't drive all the way to the Bronx for the Bahn Mi.
It was the noodle soups that beckoned, and the two we had were delicious, each in their own unique way. The crab noodle soup, piled hight with thin rice noodles, complete with ground-up gobs of real crab and chunks of tomato (!) had a very rich and flavorful broth. The seafood noodle soup, on the other hand, had thicker noodles, laced with shrimp, fish balls, squid and fish cakes, had a broth that was far more subtle, slightly peppery taste, complete unto itself and in need of no spicy add-ons (although they are available, along with the usual sprouts and mint leaves).
Phung Hung also whips up the thickest Vietnamese Coffee I've tasted in many a moon. Like Ba Xuyen and other shops, they use New Orleans' own Cafe Du Monde. This version, quite tasty, verged on being downright chocolatey. In addition, I ordered a Si Muoi, or Salty Plum drink, which is a refreshing combination of salt and sweetness, designed, at least in part, to replenish the body's salt content in hot, sweaty weather.
For all this chow, the check amounted to 19 bucks(which eased the pain of having to pay 9 bucks in toll fees). No money value, however, can be placed on the friendly, easy-going, refreshingly spartan atmosphere of this family operation. Mr. Nguyen and family were very warm, welcoming, and seemed genuinely happy, and more than just a little bit curious, to have new customers. Even if he doesn't necessarily need them to keep going (apparently, Phung Hung is not a well kept secret amongst neighborhood Vietnamese and food enthusiasts).
Another reason for this post is to give a heads-up: Phung Hung will be closing for renovations in about 3 weeks or so. Although it will be back, complete with same kitchen staff, this might be your last chance to check it out for a while before it re-opens in more of a cafe-type decor.
By the way, unless you're in close driving distance, I recommend taking the train. A much more relaxing trip. The elevated 4 line stops about a block away. The D is close by as well.
Thanks to Dave Cook, amongst other posters, who have made mention of Phung Hung in previous threads. Here's J. Slab's review, complete with food shots and Nguyen family pictures. Enjoy: http://porkchop-express.blogspot.com/
Pho Saigon No. 1
2614 Jerome Ave, Bronx, NY 10468
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