5.21.2013

Phonomenal

I’ve been infected. No, not with some kind of horrible illness, the swine flu or lime disease, thank God, but with the same obsession to which Tony Bourdain has dedicated many hours of cable television: pho. This northern Vietnamese rice noodle soup, common as street food in that country, is traditionally made with beef bones, charred ginger and onion, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, coriander and cumin. You may have read my review last year of the new pho place in Vestal, near Binghamton University, which I liked, but didn’t set my hair on fire or anything.

Well, consider my hair on fire, my skirt flown up, and my mind blown. I have tasted superior pho, and it is available just a short drive from Vestal, on Main St. in Binghamton at Pho 99 Vietnamese Beef Noodle House. I don’t know when this place opened, but I’m glad it did, and I want you to go there and slurp up this soup and then lay gifts at my feet in appreciation. If those gifts could come in the form of Tory Burch flats and sandals, that would be super cool.
Anyhoodle, I’ve been begging Big Hungry Melinda to accompany me to Pho 99 at least since Parade Day, and we finally both found time to do it this past Saturday. Pho 99 isn’t fancy, but it’s not too shabby, either, and as soon as the soup hits your table, you’ll be so focused on that big bowl of something good, you won’t care what’s going on out on the street or at the next table.
First arrived the venerable pho fixings platter, which was much more robust than the one I posted about previously. This assortment of Thai basil, lime, jalapeno (which I’m sure would be Thai chile in more urban areas), and bean sprouts was so pretty, I just had to show you:
About Vestal’s pho, I remember remarking that the broth was weak, and needed all the lime, basil, and sriracha it could get. This broth was glorious. Melinda and I both chose the sliced steak and beef ball pho, which was recommended by our server. The huge, steaming bowls arrived looking like mostly broth and white onion, with a pink ball in the center. It turned out that was the rare steak, sliced very thing, cooking in the hot broth, and covering the clump of thin rice noodles. Once doctored with lime, sriracha, basil, and sprouts, the broth was citrusy, spicy, but also rich, and just slightly fatty. It was salty, complex, just like all my favorite asian flavors. The beef balls are really just meatballs, so don’t be scared. They were finely ground and tightly packed, without a ton of flavor to add, whereas the steak was tender and really yummy. Honestly, it was all just pho-nomenal. In fact, it was so good, I’m not even a little bit ashamed of that pun.
We also ordered some egg rolls from the appetizer list. These were homemade, fresh and initially yummy, but really, really greasy. As in, the grease was actually pooling inside the bottom of each roll, and they were almost inedible by the last few bites. I won’t order them again.

I’m happy that Pho 99 has added to the landscape of Asian food we have here in the Southern Tier – I just wish it was closer to my house! I could slurp a steaming caldron of this witches’ brew at least once a week if this joint were closer. But I’ll have to settle for, maybe, once a month visits? If you’re in the area, wanting to try Vietnamese food, and shy about new things, try this dish. It’s beef noodle soup, nothing more! You can bring in the herbs, citrus, and heat yourself, as little or as much as you choose – so what’s to be scared of?
I also wanted to share with you cool little Asian salad dressing I recently came up with one night when I was wanting to throw together a light, summery slaw. I added it to a rainbow slaw mix from the store that I augmented with scallions, red bell pepper and fresh cilantro. Like to hear it? Here it go:
Sweet Chile Vinaigrette
  • 1 ½ T Thai sweet chile sauce
  • 2 T Rice vinegar
  • 3 T Canola Oil

Mix it up, dump it on, eat it up. Oh, I’m sorry, were you expecting more? Nah, this is all you need! And it’s good! Enjoy! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Pho 99 Vietnamese Beef Noodle House on Urbanspoon

4 comments:

  1. I've been meaning to check out the Pho place Bourdain visited in Philly. You may have pushed me on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pho 75 on Washington ave in Philly is great. There is also a fine pho place at 9th and race. Parking is tight at wash ave...good time to go is in the morning. Neighborhood is a bit safer then. Also, you can walk over to the Italian maket, great shopping, fantes, pizza, Italian pastries, etc. the film in her shoes was filmed there, among other things. Big big murals of frank Sinatra, etc. hope you enjoy both pho and the city.

      Delete
    2. Pho 75 on Washington ave in Philly is great. There is also a fine pho place at 9th and race. Parking is tight at wash ave...good time to go is in the morning. Neighborhood is a bit safer then. Also, you can walk over to the Italian maket, great shopping, fantes, pizza, Italian pastries, etc. the film in her shoes was filmed there, among other things. Big big murals of frank Sinatra, etc. hope you enjoy both pho and the city.

      Delete
  2. A colleague in DC also said I've encouraged to finally try pho. If I was pnly put on this Earth to spread the Gospel of beef noodle soup, I'm ok with that.

    ReplyDelete