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Mini Pho Tour in and around Chandler, AZ

I've been a long time lurker and have now decided to write my first review in AZ. Originally an East Coast Chowhound I've had my fare share of Pho from Boston, New York, Philly and all the way up to Toronto and Montreal. Tonight my GF and I tried Anise (Chandler) our final pho tour stop this week. So far we've tried Noodles Ranch(Scottsdale), Saigon Pho(Chandler), Yen Min(Chandler) , Cyclo(Chandler) and Dragon Fly(Mesa). Whewww!...6 restaurants in 7 days. One good thing about vietnamese cuisine is how affordable it is and thank goodness it was. We generally ordered the same thing in each restaurant with exception to Cylco and Anise. In each place my GF would order the Pho Ga(chicken) and I would order the traditional rice plate which includes bbq pork or beef, shredded pork linings and a pork quiche. We also would start off with an order of spring rolls. Here is our ranking...

1. Dragon Fly...This place was hands down the best of the group. The pho was exceptionally fragrant but the winner was definitely my rice dish. Dragon Fly was the only place who topped off my rice plate with the traditional pork cracklings (very addictive) which i've only noticed on the east coast. Definitely bonus pts!

2. Cyclo...As much as I wanted to hate this place this was a favorite of my GF. I've heard mixed reviews but after dining here I can see why it's a popular choice with the hip local crowd and not so much the crowds (asian families) i've noticed at the other places. My GF has Pho Ga which she said was her favorite and I ordered 3 apps which has been recommended on the board. I tried the beef carpaccio, tamarind short ribs and the soy glazed wings. Loved the carpaccio and short ribs but the wings were just ok. They tasted like The Vine wings covered in hoisin sauce and chili paste. $5 for 4 wings?...give me a break!

3. Anise...Of all the places we visited this restaurant was by far the nicest looking and most expensive of all the bunch. Our checks usually hover around $18 for 2 entrees and one apps. Here it was $24.75 still a bargain but the price point was $2.50-$4 more per entree than the rest. At Anise I switched thing up and tried the Mi Kho Dac Biet (Dry egg noodle with bbq pork, shrimp fritters and ground pork) It was served with a side bowl of soup. This dish is a staple in many vietnamese restaurant but Anise is the only one that served it on our tour. It was delicious but for $9.75 the portions were rather skimpy. My GF wanted to order her Pho Ga but was told they only served the beef version. The Pho was decent but again it's kinda hard to mess up unless you're Yen Mi which my rant is coming. Anise is the newest of the vietnamese bunch in Chandler and will quickly become a favorite.

4. Noodles Ranch...We tried this hidden jewel because the GF lives across the street. I thought the decoration was quite traditional just like Cyclo and gave the space a funky vibe. Just like Cyclo the owners were very lively and talkative with us. The Pho Ga serving was the smallest we've had but still very tasty. They didn't have my traditional rice dish so I went with the Bun Thit Noung (Vermicelli noodles with bbq pork and egg rolls) This is a great dish when the weather outside is 100 plus. The cold noodles and vegetables mixed with the hot bbq pork and egg roll was a welcomed contrast. Of all the vietnamese restaurant we tried Noodles Ranch broke the traditional vietnamese dessert offering of tri-color shakes and replaced it with 3 homemade desserts. The banana bread pudding was a huge hit!

5. Saigon Pho...It's decent and with an average check of $12.00 (pho ga $4.95, rice plate $4.50 and spring rolls $2.50) before tax and tip how can you complain?

6. Yen Mi...The worst of all the restaurant we've tried. Everything from the service, food and atmosphere was horrible. First the food. My GF's Pho Ga had a pool of oil on top of what looked like McDonald's chicken mcnuggets but without the crispy coating. This is the first Pho she didn't finish half of. My rice plate was no better. The traditional shredded pork linings were nowhere to be found and the pork itself was drier than chicken mcnugget things in my gf's Pho. As for the service it was kinda hard to eat with one of the bussers constantly yelling randomly while he was bussing. After a few minutes it dawned on me he wasn't doing this on purpose but was some kind of terets (sp?). The space looked like a storage room for Le Le's supermarket and with the high ceilings the yelling was rather annoying.

Well I guess this concludes my first ever posting for AZ hounds. Also I just wanted to thank everyone in AZ for the fine suggestions. Because of you guys I've tried so many different restaurants since moving here from Boston. Some of my favorites, Los Sumbreros, Phoenix City Grille, Roaring Fork, Cafe Boa, Barrio Cafe, Kaz Bar, Pizzeria Bianco etc... Thanks for all your input. Now all I need is a place that serves fried clams (big bellies)!

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  1. This is great information. Thanks for sharing. Of the bunch, Noodles Ranch is my current favorite, but I haven't tried many on your list. I'll have to make a point to get over to Dragon Fly and Anise soon.

    1. Thanks for the Post! Love your format that you put your thoughts into, concise and to the point. One other place that I used to go to all the time was Pho Bang on 17th ave and Camelback, have not been in quite some time- very small, in a strip mall and most definitely a Dive but good pho. Thanks again.

      1. Thanks for the write up. Try the duck soup next time you are at Dragonfly...yummy!!!!!

        1. That's it. I need to try Dragonfly.

          Thanks for the review.

          1. Welcome! I had noticed the down hill on Yen Mi for awhile, but my one visit to Dragonfly was a strained by their sudden spurt of Seftel fairy dust fame. I'll clearly give them another try. Do tell us where Anise is - I've not heard of it and it may be a replacement for Cyclo, which I like very much but have an aversion to the waiting lines that have developed.

            1. Anise is at Warner and Dobson (northwest corner) next to the huge fitness place.

              1. For the maximum pho experience, travel to the west-side. JUST south of Thomas, on 43rd Ave, is

                Pho 43 Express

                Try as I might, I couldn't Google nor find the WhitePages listing on-line. Suffice to say, they re-define the word inexpensive when it comes to the price of good Viet fare. The offer a H U G E bowl, a terrine actually, okay...a TROUGH..of some tasty pho for a mere $5!

                They're cash-only, so leave the American Express at home.

                1. From my personal stand point of Vietnamese food, pho is the most basic breakfast/lunch/snack item on each restaurant's menu. Unfortunately, no one in AZ seem to get it right. It is nearly impossible to find bad Pho in Orange County. Yen Min comes closest to what we would consider edible. At least they have the temperature set to thermo-nuclear. My pho was luke warm at Dragonfly and Cyclo. I had trouble with the amount of MSG they use at Saigon Pho. The worst that I had is Anise, although the restaurant was nice, I had to wait 30 minutes for the food to come out, and it was not good.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: p_dubs

                    I've asked many Vietnamese coworkers and nail salon experts [ :) ] for suggestions on where to get great pho and other Vietnamese dishes, and the top three would be Yen Mi, Saigon Pho, and Phutan (sp?). A few have also mentioned Dragonfly. Of course, they told me that each of these restaurants would excel over the others in different dishes, so it just depends what you're in the mood for.

                    I tried the chicken salad and the pan-seared salmon rolls at Dragonfly last night (my first visit). The salad was amazing! I also liked the salmon rolls, although I was disappointed to find cucumber (allergy) included in the preparation... The description for SPRING rolls mentioned cukes, while the description for summer rolls did not, so I assumed that the appetizer was safe for me to order. By the time I had realized the error, I'd already consumed some.

                    I also ordered the lemongrass char-grilled chicken with veggies (instead of rice) to take home. I would recommend this dish to anyone, as well. I almost ordered the hot and spicy pho (includes eye of round, brisket, and some other meat) when I noticed another menu page and so had to take a second look. Has anyone tried this pho dish here? I'd love to try it sometimes, although I must admit I'd be happy to have the chicken salad again!

                  2. i've tried most of those places and i definitely agree! i LOVE dragonfly, they are wonderful! the seafood pho and vietnamese coffee are delicious, the place is clean, and the servers are friendly and unintrusive. a pho sapa is opening near me on elliot & kyrene- wonder how that will measure up...

                    1. Visited Nhat in Tempe for the first time tonight [same plaza as the recommendable Blue Nile (Ethiopian cuisine) and Delhi Palace (was going to try it for the first time, but strangely, it was closed!]. Had the seafood combo with egg noodles, but bec. I'm allergic to shrimp, the soup I ended up with only contained the noodles, veggies, and imitation crab. Good, but won't order again on account of the imitation crab. Try the spicy lemongrass chicken served with sticky rice. A little greasy, but good.

                      The spring rolls are good at both Yen Mi and Saigon Pho, but the best value is at Yen Mi. A Vietnamese coworker swears by Saigon Pho and also Phutan in Mesa, but I've never been.

                      1. Honestly, I've been to many of these, including the top three. For me, there is no question that Anise is hands-down the best. The broth is just better, more homemade tasting or something. It's a little more expensive than Saigon Pho, but not really more than Dragonfly or Cyclo. I'm spoiled. I'm sticking with Anise.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: pkpdjh

                          how long did you have to wait at Anise? The place is clean, but we sat there for twenty minutes for our food. And talk about stingy on the sauces, I know it looked nice on the spoons, but let's get serious.

                          1. re: p_dubs

                            I have never waited at Anise, but I tend to eat lunch and dinner a little bit late, after any sort of rush.

                            I'm not sure I have experienced the same "stinginess on the sauces." I usually get pho, and there are no issues. I'm sure if you want a bowl full of sauces, they would bring it to you. We always ask for extra veggies with the soup and they pile 'em on.

                        2. I just visited Yen Min yesterday and they really changed their pho recipe. Before everyone jump ship to Anise or Saigon Pho, try Yen Min again. They remodeled the entire restaurant and revamped their service. The portion on their noodle soup are downsized, but they make up for it in flavor.

                          1. I've been all of the restaurants you mentioned here and I don't like any of them. My first favorite one is Pho 43 Express at SW corner of Thomas and 43rd Ave in Phoenix. Then the second one is Pho Nhat-North side of Southern Ave in Mesa, across from MCC-they offer a good bowl of Pho too. Keep in mind this is just for Pho, not other dishes.

                            1. since you did a tour around chandler, az...

                              i noticed a new restaurant called pho hai san ("seafood pho") opened up on ray and kyrene, where the wang's chinese food restaurant used to be... haven't ventured in yet... anyone know about the merit of this place?

                              1. lol, I completely agree with everything you say. Anyone who reads this should definitely take it to heart! BTW your experiences at Yen Mi practically mirror my own!