No drama on this post at all. Got to An Choi at 2:45, Wilfrid got in seconds later, we ordered, had some great conversation, some great food, and in an hour fifteen, everything was wrapped up and I was back at Starbucks with an open laptop.
Now I’ve got three hours to write this post, but it’ll take me a solid two hours. It pissed me off watching Michelle whip off her post in less than an hour, and hers was much funnier than mine. BlÃ«rg.
Seriosuly, though, this is a lot of work! Of course I knew what I was getting into when I started this project; it’s just going to be tough to get the quality of post that I’d like to deliver up on this consistent schedule. I went from posting maybe once a week for the last two months to posting three times a day (with pictures) – it’s like quitting cold turkey, except in reverse.
Oh who am I kidding – I know you want my life. I just came back from a mule ride down to the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and on the way, hikers would comment on how easy I had it. I always told the hikers it wasn’t as cushy as it looked. My brother confronted me about saying that, insinuating that I wouldn’t want to be a hiker. I guess, compared to most jobs, this is like riding a climate-controlled mule with a marshmallow saddle.
I got the An Choi call from my friend Karen, who knows one of the chefs here through a friend. She’d been down here and indicated the pho would blow my mind. I am a bit of a pho connoisseur, so I’m a little hard to please when it comes to the soup. I am such a stickler for pho, my favorite comes from a strip mall in Gaithersburg, MD , and I’ve probably had bowls from fifteen places in DC.
When I tried the Bun Bo Hue at An Choi, it was my first time trying it. I’ve only had white meat chicken pho. I’ve never had the beef, the tripe, the tofu; I’ve never even had dark meat chicken pho. Tuan (one of the owners) knew this and suggested I go with that. I felt like being adventurous and asked him to suggest his favorite. When it got to the table, it was like trying a root beer after I’d only had variations of cola my whole life: I could tell you what a good cola would taste like, but I wouldn’t have anything to judge the root beer against.
I loved the heat of the broth and the tenderness of the beef. The noodles were big, and this was something that I wasn’t used to; not so much my style. I love adding the sprouts and basil to the pho, and I thought the bean sprouts were a better match for the beef, but I prefer the basil with the chicken.
I did get to try the regular pho broth, and it had a pleasantly different taste to it. Wilfrid and I decided it was either cinnamon or allspice that rounded out the flavor. I think I might just be a white meat chicken pho kind of guy, but I’m going to give the beef pho another few shots to change my mind.
For the first few seconds of typing the banh mi paragraph, I was thinking about writing it in ALL CAPS to tell you how much I loved the THIT HEO QUAY, the Chinese Crispy Roast Pig banh mi. WOW. I’ll stop now, but damn this was good. First off, Tuan admonished, “Well, it’s made with pork belly, so it might be a bit fatty.”
I think he was trying to seduce me.
I had to have it, and after my first bite, I wished I’d another half sandwich to eat. Wilfrid told me he was satisfied with his sandwich, which was fine with me, because I didn’t want to give him any of mine. I guess I said this aloud, so I had to hand it over so he could take a bite. He loved it. The pork was sweet, no-joke crispy, and the fat content was just right. There was some kind of white spread inside giving it a little creaminess that took it to another level. The baguette was made with rice flour and matched pork’s crispiness factor. It was apparent I didn’t know what banh mi was supposed to taste like either. I reviewed the first one I’d ever tried from Ma PÃªche earlier this week, and the An Choi sandwich shattered my expectations.
Nice work Bui brothers.
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank An Choi for providing this meal.
85 Orchard Street
New York, NY