Yesterday morning I forgot to put the boneless skinless chicken thighs I had defrosting into a bag with the jerk seasoning and couldn’t bear the thought of having ‘plain’ grilled chicken, so my husband, my daughter and I went for dinner out.
I had seen the Grand Opening Banner for Saigon2 in the little strip mall on 309 across the highway from Wal-Mart. I had assumed that our ‘friend’ Eric, from Saigon@Main in Lansdale had expanded to second location, so we thought we’d give it a try.
Because of rather slow service we’ve been getting just takeout from Saigon@Main lately, but thought we’d go over for a proper sit down dinner (besides, Pho just doesn’t taste as good to me unless it’s served piping hot in the bowl)
What we quickly perceived when we walked into the new restaurant, is that this place had no affiliation with Saigon@Main. (later, when we got home, we looked it up online and it turns out that this is a second store to a location in Red Bank, NJ)
Pho Le Vietnamese Restaurant on
But, well, we were there. The place is a little too bright, the tables and chairs are Spartan, as are the decorations. They do have all the condiments that you may want, right there on the table, along with soup spoons and plastic chop-sticks and a napkin dispenser.
We were quickly greeted and seated by a very nice young man, who took our drink order (one Vietnamese Iced coffee with condensed milk, one Iced coffee, black, one water)
The Iced coffees were terrific. Mine arrived already mixed (I kind of like it when they serve it with just the layer of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom) my husbands coffee was still brewing over the sugar. You don’t get much better than that. The flavors were right on, rich, dark, creamy… like having dessert before dinner!
While we sipped our drinks, we perused the expansive menu. Bánh mì! Yay, that’s something they don’t have @Main! No fish in clay pot… boo! Hubby was a little disappointed. They had a nice selection of bun and stir fry dishes as well as my favorite Pho.
For appetizers, the three of us split a grilled pork Bánh mì and an order of fried spring-rolls, Cha Gio.
Our waiter smiled and nodded, and commended our selection as ‘excellent’, actually he steered us to the grilled pork over the roast pork for the Bánh mì , and I am forever grateful to him for that…
The spring-rolls were excellent! Amazing, packed nicely with meat and spices and expertly rolled and fired. Not at all greasy.
The banh mi was… well just perfect! I expected the pork to be chewy, it’s what’s always been my experience. I have seen the light! This pork was tender, and had just enough fat leftover on it but the fat was so thoroughly cooked that it wasn’t chewy, or sinewy, it melted in your mouth. The roll was crusty and warm… the ‘salad’ inside was crisp and tasty and so fresh!
For dinner, I ordered the special beef pho – this is the pho that’s loaded with all manner of beef, including tripe and tendon. The waiter double checked to make sure that’s what I was really looking for… (tendon and tripe sometimes scare people) Yessir, that’s what I want.
My husband got salt fish fried rice and my daughter got beef and vegetables with crispy noodles.
Again, our waiter seemed to heartily approve of all of our choices.
My pho was spectacular! The broth was rich and deep with just a little hint of sweetness, the meats were awesome, even the tripe. My only complaint about @Main was the tripe was cut thick and resulted in, well squeaky, chewy, hard pieces. The tripe in this pho was thinly sliced and tender, the tendon was soft and had that amazing (sorry for the word) unctuous quality, the fixins even included some culantro along with plenty of thai basil, lime, jalapenos and bean sprouts. All of which were crisp and fresh.
My husband’s salt fish fried rice was really really good. Little pieces of salt cured fish stir fried with egg and broken rice and some veggies thrown in for good measure the spice and flavor was different, and we liked it… a lot (It was a very large portion and he ate darn near the whole thing)
The stir fried beef and veggies with crispy noodles was quite the spectacle to be seen.
A long birds nest type ‘basket’ of crispy fried noodles cradling tender pieces of beef and crisp-tender veggies, including bok-choy, broccoli, carrots, onions… the thickened sauce was very good. In some places you get stir fry and the sauce is just gloppy mess of cornstarch and soy sauce, but this was a gentle coating over the dish, enough to compliment not overpower. Again, this had a seasoning that I couldn’t quite put my finger on (what is that secret ingredient?)
Too stuffed for anything else (I’m having leftovers for lunch today) we just peered into the refrigerated case by the register to look at the ‘exotic’ desserts they had to offer. I don’t know diddly about Vietnamese desserts, they looked quite different and there was even one on top that looked like a flower made out of cookie and baked… it was beautiful and looked delicious. If I can restrain myself next time, I’ll have to give it a try
The prices are reasonable. The service is friendly and attentive. The food is Excellent!
Go there and have the Bánh mì and the pho and be happy!
Red Bank Cafe
509 N Broad St, Woodbury, NJ 08096