I have read a few things about this place and convinced my west side experimenter friends to join me (Sacha and Scott). They’re excellent lunch companions because they are game to go with me to try whatever I’m thinking about, and even better yet to order lots of different food and to share (even when it involves difficult to share noodles).
I started bossy and ordered a Vietnamese pancake ($6.95) as an appetizer—because I love them so and whenever there’s more than just me in a Vietnamese restaurant, I feel like I have an excuse to order more food. This one was very good. The rice flour crepe was very thin with nice crispy edges. Inside, it was stuffed with pieces of pork and small whole shrimps and lots of bean sprouts and green onions. It was served with a bit of lettuce, cilantro, some sliced cucumbers and seasoned fish sauce on the side. Like I said in general, I love these things and this one was no exception. The crepe was one of the better ones (to me, this means thin and crisp, but still with a bit of softness in the middle) and the fillings inside were tender (meat) and crunchy (sprouts). I like the combo of flavors with the slightly salty/slighty sweet seasoned fish sauce. I have never introduced anyone to one of these pancakes who didn’t like it and Sacha and Scott were no exception. They both really liked it.
I ordered the rare beef pho ($7.95) and it was also very good. A huge bowl filled with lots of rice noodles, a good amount of the super thin slices of beef (and a fair amount of it), tons of chopped scallions and sliced onions and the side plate of fresh garnishes—jalapeno, cilantro, purple basil, bean sprouts and a wedge of lime. I threw most of the herbs in there and a bit of the jalapeno and some of the sprouts (there were A LOT of sprouts on the plate). I squeezed all the lime juice in and threw the lime in too (acid!). The thing that makes (or breaks) pho is the broth. If it doesn’t have a lot of flavor, then the whole thing just isn’t very good. This one had a lot of flavor and just a bit of fat (you could see the remnants after the soup had cooled). It was really good and perfect on a cold day. Also, so big that I am sure I will never finish a bowl, and in fact, even the three of us didn’t finish it.
Scott ordered the Com Tay Cam, or clay pot ($8.25). It was heavily sauced rice served with a choice of meat (he had the shrimp). I liked this one as well, but the menu mentioned crispy rice (which is the appeal of a clay pot dish to me)—the rice kind of burns onto the bottom of the dish making for crispy bits. I didn’t really see too much of that here. The flavor was of a thicker, slightly sweet sauce—thinking soy sauce and some oyster sauce were involved. This reminded me more of Chinese food because it was more sauce heavy, whereas the Vietnamese food usually seems lighter. There were veggies as well as some pieces of pineapple in there.
Sacha ordered the minced pork noodle (bun mi)($6.79). This is a noodle dish as well—the noodles are served on top of shredded veggies—lettuce, cucumbers, and green onions. On top of it was some shredded pork. Our server explained that you are to take the little bowl of seasoned fish sauce and pour it on top and then mix it up, which she did. This dish was my least favorite on the table—it was mostly cold (the veggies anyway) and the flavors much milder—it just didn’t have the depth of the other dishes. Honestly, I would be hard pressed not to go back and just order the exact same thing I had this time—the pancake and the pho.
The place was doing a good lunch business and the food was delivered pretty quickly. The prices are reasonable and I think it’s a good spot for a cheap, fast, lunch. I’d go back.
7280 N. Michigan Road