The Budget: $9-15
The Specs: Pho Sao Mai
The Mood: Eat pho until you explode
The Place: 203 1st Avenue
Okay, it’s time to talk Pho, because this soup is important, and Sao Mai does it right. I’m a fan of Vietnamese food, what can I say? If I lived in the neighborhood, I would definitely stop by regularly. However, it is important to note, I wouldn’t travel to eat here for anything on their menu besides the pho. I’m not saying its no good. I’m saying it’s not great, which surprised me considering just how many reviews I read from respectable blogs on this place before I showed up. Anyway, my strategic use of italics gives a good idea of what I’m saying here. The pho was out of this world and is worth traveling for a bit–the rest of the menu is good Vietnamese, but nothing to lose sleep over (or gain sleep over?).
I like this picture because it shows all of the following: the pure satisfaction of eating, the reality of how people stare at their phones more than they stare at people, and a gentle idea of what Sao Mai looks like in its interior. What does it look like? Nothing special, which gives it its own character. Come in the summertime, though. They open the doors up to the street, and it’s always fun to people-watch as you unashamedly slurp down pho broth while picking up the noodles with your chopsticks.
Goi Cuon (Shrimp Summer Roll) ($6)
I heard really spectacular things about these shrimp spring rolls, which made it a little disappointing when I tasted them and could not pretend that I have not made far superior shrimp spring rolls from the comfort of my own home. They look phenomenal in this picture, but it’s just my new lens. I’d take a hard pass and save the $6 for some Halal.
Bun Ga Nuong (Grilled Chicken Vermicelli Noodle) ($9)
I usually get meat over rice at a Vietnamese place. Try some vermicelli noodles for a nice change of pace. I have to say, though, I still give preference to the rice. This bowl is good. I would eat it again. I would enjoy it.
Banh Mi ($9)
This was one of those “you have to get this” items on the menu that I was just not that impressed with. It was good. It was definitely a banh mi. We were really appreciative, because they stop serving them at 5pm but let us order it anyway. But I don’t know, maybe if they hadn’t let us order it, we would have been happier. That’s okay, we were still grateful.
Pho Sao Mai (House Special Noodle) ($10.50)
This is the king. This is THE pho. This bowl took me to new worlds and let me see things I had no idea existed. Yes, we are talking about this perfect bowl of pho. I don’t care where you live–get your booty to the East Village and eat this pho. Also, I tried the house special so I could try all the meat options and find the best one. And the winner issss the beef brisket. Next goes to the beef eye round. Last goes to the beef balls (if you order just one meat, it’s only $9, so buy that brisket). Don’t forget to throw in the siracha, the chili oil, the hoisin, the lime, the bean sprouts, and all the greens you have. Oh, and don’t forget the jalepenos! (You’ve caught on? I like spicy food?)
If you take anything away from this post, come here. Eat pho. If you are here and want something else, okay, but make sure you eat the pho. PHO!
Put a spoon in it.