Today, I was on a mission. Determined to try something new. In need of a bowl of pho. But I needed something to get started with.
Since I live and work in the south loop, I decided to head south and go to Riccobene's at Canal near 26th, for the breaded steak sandwich, and I was not impressed at all. Lots for your money, but...not my cup of tea. I guess I was expecting a real mind blowing experience like Al's beef, and a "good" sandwich was somehow disappointing.
Next stop was Goose Island Shrimp on Division, for a pound of jumbos. Sorry, but you might get locked up in certain parts of Virginia or Maryland for putting double breading on a good quality shrimp. Same type of breading as Lawrence Fisheries, but more garlic powder. They were huge, and crispy, but 60% breading!! Again good, but this is not in any way a great fried shrimp.
I guess you could call me obsessive-compulsive. Last week I had seven Cuban sandwiches from Cafeteria Marianos on Milwaukee, and while in my home town in Virginia back in June, I ate thirty eight hot dogs from my favorite hot dog stand in a week.
As I said, I was on a mission, and wanted pho, but also wanted to check out those two places on Sheridan, the one with brains masala, and the Vietnamese place that has the bahn mi, so next stop was Shan. I ordered the brains and some naan. Thet were flavorful, almost creamy, with slivers of ginger, jalapeno, and cilantro. Slightly greasy, with freshly prepared naan to scoop them up. They came with a little side plate of salad, and about an ounce of raita. Success!
Walked down the street and picked up a sandwich from Lo Bahn Mi Hung Phat to try later. I usually go to Ba Le, and wanted to compare.
Next stop was Pho Hung. I've been to Pho Hua maybe twenty times (OCD, remember), always very pleased, but today I was determined to experience some new places.
I ordered the "to die for", or #1 I think, with four meats (tripe, tendon, rare tenderloin or eye round maybe, and shoulder). The broth was tasty, with a heavier overtone of star anise than Pho Hua, very beefy, not greasy at all, but pretty dark and not clear. The noodles were superior to Pho Hua, who I have long suspected of precooking their noodles. They were perfectly al dente. Quantity of meats I have to say Pho Hua has it hands down. I am a meat eater, and when I leave Pho Hua, I'm satisfied. I suspect Pho Hung's version is more authentic, with meat in a subordinate role. But, to me, the whole essence of pho is the broth, and Pho Hua has it hands down. Clear, like consomme, never boiled, skimmed constantly..., technique that a French chef would be proud to posess.
I had the bahn mi an hour ago. More veggies than Ba Le, but Ba Le is slightly larger, on a crisper baguette, with a little more meat. Also, Ba Le uses more of the "pate", the smooth mousse like concoction, which to me is a little more French somehow. They are both great. I prefer Ba Le.
Dong Ky has a pretty good bahn xeo, which is the tumeric scented egg and rice flour omelette/pancake, filled with bean sprouts, fatty pork and shrimp, and served with the usual table salad and nuoc mam. I am anxious to sample some further items.
Other recent standouts have been Shui Wah for dim sum (awesome salt and pepper squid, pork dumplings, fried taro pie, steamed spareribs, shrimp shu mai, and beef short ribs) and Lao Sze Chuan ( cold beef tendon app., very Chinese pig's ear appetizer,nice and crunchy, the pork elbow which is actually the shank, braised with
bean paste, Famous Szechuan sour pickle and meat mix which was similar to pickled pig's feet in flavor with pickled celery, carrot, jalapeno, and pickled chicken feet. I also enjoyed the more pedestrian spicy eggplant with ground pork, and the dry fried green beans. The ma po tofu was a little too authentic for me, extremely greasy and heavy on Szechuan peppercorn.
Thats all for now. More later...