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Phontastic!

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Pho Ga (Update March ’16)

We came here tonight prior to catching a movie at the Cinemaxx on the others side of the road. My brother in law originally intended to bring us to the running sushi place next door but that joint was bursting with people and no free seats were to be seen. Not having much time before the movie started we improvised and swiftly opted for their sister restaurant that cooks up a variety of Asian inspired wok stir fries, that were my definition of Asian cuisine about 8 years ago.

In the tradition of good germanized Asian food, I set my mind on ‘Ente Kross’ (crispy duck), a friend’s fitting name for a common fried-to-the-death-duck dish (not literally of course). Other than in Asia, where people love their fatty and chewy bits, Germans, in general, are not too fond of excessive fats and wobbly textures so those duck dishes are crisper than crisp, probably a bit dry yet still kinda delicious. Almost decided, I browsed my the pho bo on the menu and got indecisive again. When I am confused at a restaurant nowadays I tend to ask the staff for their recommendation given my shortlist of dishes. The lovely waitress was pretty quick in swaying me into the direction of the big bowl of piping hot Vietnamese soup, filled with lots of goodies; there were lime wedges, loads of those flat rice noodles, greens like herbs and scallions and deliciously tender beef slices. I was only missing some chili padi but they were also just one request to the waitress away.

As far as the broth goes I was pretty impressed. As always I would have wished for some more cinnamon flavor but since I mention that every single time that I am eating pho, I’m not even sure anymore if it’s actually supposed to have such a strong flavor or if it’s just in my head. The sriracha added a ubiquitous and intensifying heat to it all but the fresh chili just gave out free right hooks for my taste buds. It almost gave me the hiccups, which in my case stands for a proper chili experience and at the same time signals that I’m very close to crossing my line of tolerance. I was slurping and sweating away and felt quite happy to see such a decent bowl of pho in a place that I wouldn’t have expected it.

Dish Update March: I recently came here again during a shopping spree in town, and this time, I ordered the pho ga with chicken. I’m not 100% sure if it was the same broth, I would maybe say it was a little less intense but the chicken was just delicious; white meat that was somewhat tenderized, lightly panfried and kicking out some proper chicken aromas. A nice changeup and still healthy enough.

The place is no thrills, functional and clean but because of the open kitchen you might take a nice little food scent home with you depending where you were seated. There are tables for couples and groups with benches, meant for quick meals and not for lounging around for hours. Service is mostly nice, especially our waitress was super attentive and later even checked if I was actaually happy with my final choice. As a result of the streamlined menu, the kitchen runs very efficiently and fast and the food we had was great and cheap. You can never go wrong with an affordable delicious pho now can you? Nice one.

Get Your Grub On!

Mai Wok (open everyday)
Bertoldstr. 53
79098 Freiburg
Germany
http://www.maiwok-freiburg.de/

Pho-tastic.

imageAnother yoga session at Tanjong Pagar ended late and bored of choices I was wandering around the area expecting a dinner surprise around every corner. Starving and after too many corners without anything amazing behind, I took a shortcut through Icon Village to get back to the main road and ran past ‘Saigon Café‘ which looked like it was about to close but the host said that they would still feed me if I decided fast. Done and done.

This was probably the fastest Pho Bo I have ever had as it took literally less than five minutes from ordering to have it on my table. Steaming hot and aside the typical herbs, chili and lime which made me very optimistic about things. Once the temperature was down to a bearable level I started sipping and slurping like there was no tomorrow. The broth had my beloved cinnamon flavor and a lightly sweet and sour after taste from the beef and the lemon. The noodles were crazy fat which gave them an awesome chewy texture and made ’em perfect to fill up a hungry guy like me tonight. Towards the end they became a bit mushy though so I would recommend ignoring the advice from our mothers and just gobbling it down as fast as you can. Oh and the beef was outstanding; lean, heaps and delicious. Great stuff.

Not an eye catcher for sure but the pho here now ranks within my top two in Singapore so I’m a bit envious of all you people living at Icon, in general and for having such a place in your basement.

Saigon Café
12 Gopeng Street
#01-82/83 Icon Village
Singapore 078877
Tel: +65 6225 2340

In for a surprise.

imageI was on a spontaneous one-day / one-night business trip to K.L. and after our meeting the colleagues there took us out for dinner to ‘alexis’ at Mid Valley. The place looked plain, no thrills just like any other mall restaurant and had a fairly mixed and quite worrying, so called intercontinental menu.

For starters I had the ‘Duck Confit‘. Yes, that’s right, ‘Duck Confit‘ as an appetiser, probably one of the best ideas I have come across in a long time. I’m not quite sure how authentic it was, since I had this rather seldom as a main but as it was in fact wickedly awesome, I couldn’t give a lesser damn. It was super crispy crackling on the skin with the meat still moist and savory and the balsamic reduction, some arugula and the caramelized pears were a brilliant sweet-sour-bitter contra play. A-freaking-mazing.

imageAfter my fancy and unusual large french starter I followed a colleague’s recommendation and ordered the ‘Pho Bo‘ still keeping my expectations low. It turned out there was no need to be conservative for the bowl was huge and piping hot with that lovely cinnamon fragrance steaming up from the top. The noodles were the thicker kind, awesome chewy and the meat was plenty and lean. On top of that they handed loads of proper pho condiments like sprouts, basil, mint, chilli and lemon, which I miss so often. Now that’s how it’s done.

Well this place was a nice culinary surprise. With its’ unpromising facade and it’s weird all-around-the-globe-menu it nearly got me fooled and disappointed at first just to knock me off my dining shoes with some outstanding foods and heavy ‘Pinot Noir‘. A good night.

alexis – bistro wine bar
Lot f209 1st Floor
The Gardens
Mid Valley City
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 2287 2281
http://www.alexis.com.my/

New Vietnamese shop at United Square.

imageI had been here when they just opened shop and it all was still pretty basic and semi-finished but looked much better this time around, even though the stickiness of the tables seemed to have remained.

I already had one of their Vietnamese sandwiches before which was fairly tasty already so this time I wanted to try their ‘Bun‘ instead. I ordered the version with the spring rolls, drizzled some sauce from the condiment tray over and gave it all a good mix. Taste wise this was nothing that excited me too much, mainly because there were hardly any fresh herbs in it but I appreciated the freshness that comes with a cold dish and the different textures going on, created by the thinly cut vegetables, the crunchy roasted garlic and the crispy fried rolls. The latter had actually a very nice and thin skin which seems to be hard to find outside of Vietnam.

It’s a bit setup like a better hawker stall with food, that’s okay and more than reasonable priced. If I should come back here in the future though I most likely will stick to the sandwiches.

Banh Mi 888
101 Thomson Road
#B1-06 United Square Shopping Mall
Singapore 307591
Tel: +65 6354 3858

Simplicity is key.

imageMy brother had done his research and suggested to go to ‘Bún Chả Đắc Kim’ in the Old Quarter for lunch. Like most street style food stalls it didn’t look very appealing at first but whilst we were debating if we should give it a try or venture for something else we recognised that this place had quite a turnover in customers and so we sat down on their miniature plastic stools and tables.

Wondering what should happen next and before really ordering anything the lady of the house just started dishing up. There were delicious little and perfectly spiced grilled pork paddies and fatty thin grilled pork slices in one bowl, some crunchy root vegetables in a light sweetish sauce in another. Into the latter we added a mix of red chili and freshly chopped garlic to jazz things up a bit and gulped it all down accompanied by mountains of cold rice vermicelli and fresh herbs. Also part of this set meal were some pork spring rolls which were seriously the best I have ever had, the skin was super thin and crisp without being oily at all and they were stuffed with a fantastic mix of pork mince, spices and crunchy cabbage. Simple and outrageously good.

I would come back here anytime when up in Ha Noi again, just ignoring the general hygienic threats of sampling street food and eating fast to avoid major back pains from the tiny dining furniture should do the trick. This was my favourite meal of the entire trip, I miss it already.

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Bún Chả Đắc Kim
1 Hang Manh Street
Old Quarter
Ha Noi
Vietnam
Tel: +84 (04) 3828 5022

There’s still hope.

imageI was back home for hardly one week and even though it was just for a couple of days I already craved some Asian food. Doing a bit of research online brought us to ‘coa’ (cuisine of asia) in central Stuttgart. At first I was pretty sceptical about this place as it offered a big mix of dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, India, China etc. and I would have felt better if they were specialized in just one type of cuisine but now we were here already, so what?

We had some Vietnamese ‘Summer Rolls‘ which were quite tasty actually but I didn’t really get the fact that they just served the ingredients and we had to assemble them ourselves, one of those weird “food experiences” I suppose. We also had the ‘Shao Mai‘ which I didn’t like but then, I never really do. As main we both ordered their ‘Pho‘ and I had ankle-height-low expectations that this was going to be any good. What a nice surprise it was then when it turned out being pretty delicious. The broth was super good, full of that cinnamon I miss so often and there were many herbs like coriander floating around in it too. The noodles weren’t anything too fancy but the meat was softly tender and super lean.

They messed up our orders a couple of times so we had to wait quite a while for our food but the staff handled the situation fairly clever by throwing in some free espressi at the end of our meal. Generally I must say though that eating here actually made me pretty happy. It was probably not the best pho I have ever had but it can easily keep up and even outdo some of the bowls I tried in Singapore and it’s always fantastic to find some decent Asian grub in good old Germany. I’ll remember this one.

coa – cuisine of asia
Lautenschlagerstr. 23
70173 Stuttgart
Germany
Tel: +49 (0)711 2184 2566
http://www.coa.as/

A great friend recommend.

imageFriends invited us to join them for Vietnamese dinner tonight at ‘Viet Express’ at China Square and even though I was a bit worried about that unpromising name I was confident that our friends would’t bring us to something boring. It actually didn’t look like an “Express” kinda place more simple and a bit frumpy but the food here was really a surprise. I ordered my all time favourite,  ‘Pho Bo‘ with sliced raw meat. First slurp and it had me, this was the best pho I have had in Singapore to date, nicely infused with cinnamon and with this light beefy sour taste. It got even better after I threw the side greens and a good dash of the chilli and oyster sauce into it. The sharp onions and some fresh chilli made it nicely spicy, the beef was lean and tender, alone the noodles were nothing surprising. Service related I wouldn’t know what to write about really as besides serving the food we ordered pretty much nothing else happened but some things are just secondary after a delicious meal. Thanks A. and D., this one comes on the list.

Viet Express
3 Pickering Street
#01-34 China Square Central (Nankin Row)
Singapore 048423
Tel: +65 6536 9114