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Vietnamese restaurant shake-up on Jerome Ave

We tried to stop by the World of Taste Seafood on Jerome Ave in the Bronx for lunch today, but were surprised to see it had a new yellow awning labelled "Pho Mien Tay". That was not the only change, though: David Nguyen and the two older Vietnamese ladies were gone. We were crushed.

The only one still there was a Liberian lady named Mary, who said she'd owned the restaurant for the past two years, and that David had been working for her.

When we sat down for lunch, we noticed a new Vietnamese restaurant under construction across the street. Mary confirmed that David is opening his own restaurant across the street.

I wish I could say the food was still as good without David there, especially since Mary is such a nice lady and it looks like the place is really hurting for business. But it just wasn't. Half of the menu was out of action, including pho and weekend specials like the crab soup, and the half that remains was hardly recognisable.

Mary said she intends to keep the existing menu, but hopes to add West African food to the menu - a mix of Senagalese and Liberian dishes. When we said we didn't know a single Liberian restaurant in New York, she tempted us with descriptions of jollof and fufu and goat soup.

We checked the new place out after lunch. A hand-written whiteboard out front listed David's signature bun bo Hue. No menus yet, no idea when it will open.

We couldn't figure out what the restaurant name was, but the blue and white awning says, "Com tam Ninh-Kieu" and "Pho cali". So we have high hopes that David's amazing bun rieu will be back on Jerome Avenue soon.

Some background on World of Taste, nee Phung Hung:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/27/din...
http://www.porkchop-express.com/2007/...

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  1. Plum, fsval also reported the same rather disturbing news in this thread ...
    Take a look --> http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4041...

    Look on the bright side, MORE dining *options* on Jerome Avenue is a good thing and more importantly, I hope that both businesses can survive in this struggling economy.

    1. I had duck soup and spring rolls there a few weeks ago. A man worked the cash register and a woman cooked. I was skeptical that there was sufficient demand to support 2 Vietnamese restaurants. Morphing this restaurant to West African may not be so bad. It seems to change names regularly anyway.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MahatmaKanejeeves

        I'm actually excited about the prospect of a Liberian restaurant in the city. While I'm sure it will be similar to other West African cuisines, I'm sure it'll have some special dishes that have been to this point unavailable in the city.

      2. thanks for the update.

        what it really comes down to is: I will follow that duck soup to the end!

        1. Does anyone know if David's restaurant (across the street) is still open? I'm not exactly sure where to look...

          1. The restaurant on the premises once occupied by World of Taste is now Pho Saigon No. 1, as of January 2010:

            http://www.eatingintranslation.com/20...

            Across the street, Ninh Kieu is indeed open...

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...

            ...though the takeout menu in my hand doesn't mention bo bun Hue or bun rieu. But I haven't eaten here, and there may be much more on offer: My menu is English-only, and when I walked in, most of the fellows huddled around the largest round table seemed to be Vietnamese.

            15 Replies
            1. re: DaveCook

              Com Tam Ninh Kieu specializes in broken rice (com tam) and pho. No indication of bo bun hue nor bun rieu. The com tam is a decent rendition.

              What really hooked me was the pho - not the best I've had, but certainly the best I've had in NY. The main draw is the broth: beefy, complex and appropriately spiced. The noodles could stand to be chewier and the treatment of the meats tends to be a bit unorthodox (but I did enjoy the tendon). They honored my request for cooked sprouts as well as extra fat with blanched scallions on the side.

              Stopped by Pho Saigon to take a look. Very friendly owner. The takeout menu offered was actually for Pho Vung Tau. The owner explained that they're in transition and using his friend's menu or something. I will say that pho is not their specialty (I was given a sample of the broth upon request - it was one-dimensional, tasting mostly of cloves). He indicated that I should focus on the handwritten menu hanging from the counter (see attached photo - I apologize for making you tilt your head). Listed are bun bo hue and bun rieu. I'll return to sample the thit heo gia cay: pork cooked in the style of dog.

               
              1. re: Joe MacBu

                thanks for the recon joe; I'd love an excuse to head up there again!

                1. re: Joe MacBu

                  interesting, i love com tam if its good

                  how long does it take to get to this place from the city?

                  1. re: Lau

                    I haven't had much com tam in this town, so I don't know how it compares. My LA Vietnamese friend deemed it mostly acceptable. She enjoyed the shredded pork skin and remarked on the generous amount of toasted rice powder. The grilled pork chop didn't have any lemongrass but still tasted good; the egg/pork cake was dry and stale. The shrimp cake was good and the rice itself was solid.

                    It's probably a little over an hour from LES - 40 minutes on the 4 train itself.

                    -----
                    Com Tam Ninh Kieu
                    2641 Jerome Ave, Bronx, NY 10468

                     
                     
                    1. re: Joe MacBu

                      nice pics! the pho looks very good..

                    2. re: Joe MacBu

                      I revisited Pho Saigon today for a proper meal. Despite my advice, my friend ordered the pho, which was lackluster. I can't really blame her since she'd been craving a bowl (and I wasn't chivalrous enough to go to Com Tam Ninh Kieu instead). Please don't make the mistake of ordering the pho here.

                      I had much better luck with the 'thit heo gia cay.' The dominant aroma is that of fermented shrimp paste with some gamy undertones. The consistency is between a soup and a stew. It has a rich body and complex flavor with a little bit of funk that might overwhelm the uninitiated. It was lacking a bit of heat and brightness, which I remedied by adding vinegared chilies and some chili paste. Chunks and slices of shiitake mushrooms and roasted pork belly, complete with the skin, are scattered throughout. The meat is cooked to firm but not tough, the fat isn't silky and melting as one might expect, and the skin alternates between crisp and chewy. I really enjoyed it. I was given a choice of broad flat noodles, bread or the noodles in the photo that I obviously chose (or rather, let the owner choose for me). Served alongside is a plate of steamed cabbage and Chinese kale to balance things out.

                      As we were leaving, the owner suggested that I try the bun mam next time, but that I should be careful because the girls would avoid me afterward (it's supposed to be made with superfermented fish and really ups the funk ante). Well, I would hope that any gal I take to this place would indulge in the bun mam as well. Sounds like a perfect Valentine's Day+Vietnamese New Year lunch on the 14th.

                      I think Big Jeff should take one for the team and try one of their duck soups (the owner was quite ecstatic about them). I'm keeping my eye on the bun mam, mi vit tiem and chao long.

                      -----
                      Pho Saigon No. 1
                      2614 Jerome Ave, Bronx, NY 10468

                       
                       
                      1. re: Joe MacBu

                        headed there this weekend! and . . . . wouldn't you know it:
                        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/nyr...

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          Lo and behold.

                          I think it's great that they're getting some press. Hopefully it'll generate enough business to keep them both alive.

                          But really, I don't think it's a rivalry. The strength of the two places are on completely different realms. You go to Com Tam for the pho. You go to Pho Saigon for all the other complex soups. It's not a rumble in the Bronx.

                          BigJeff, I want photos.

                          1. re: Joe MacBu

                            they certainly love a story, don't they? yes, looking forward to doing a hop back and forth across the ave this weekend.

                            1. re: Joe MacBu

                              kind of funny that you go to a place called com tam for pho and the place called pho for soups besides pho

                            2. re: bigjeff

                              Decided to drive down from Westchester and hit both places this afternoon.

                              Had a bowl of pho with steak and flank ($6.50) at Com Tam - pretty good. The broth was beefy, with hints of clove and star anise. The steak and flank weren't that flavorful, but the noodles were appropriately chewy.

                              Didn't have enough room for another soup or com tam, so I just grabbed a banh mi ($3.50) from Pho Saigon No. 1. Not bad, but could be spicier - I think they left off the chili peppers.

                              One interesting thing I noticed, I was the only non-Vietnamese person eating at Com Tam, but there weren't any Vietnamese folks eating at Pho Saigon.

                              1. re: kdgchow

                                mmmmm, chewy noodles . . . that sounds great! tomorrow's menu will be based on this thread . . . . can't wait!

                                1. re: kdgchow

                                  i went tonight to Com Tam and ordered a bowl of the pho with steak or pho tai. i was a little disappointed the broth was not as fragrant or aromatic as i was hoping it to be just a good beefy flavor that's it. the beef was also sliced quite thick, something i would have overlooked more easily if the broth was better. i hope that it was an off day more than anything else. noodles were good, springy and chewy and the herb plate was very generous with the culantro, basil, sprouts and lime. I also ordered goi cuon/summer rolls which were made to order, the wrapper being very fresh.

                                  will go back another time to try the duck soups or to revisit their pho.

                                  1. re: deabot

                                    Made another Friday trip and hit both places again.

                                    Started with the bun bo hue ($6.50) at Com Tam. The broth was excellent: beefy and spicy, perfect for a rainy, windy day. In the bowl you had a few pieces of either pig knuckle or pig feet (pretty good, but I ate around the fat), beef slices with thin ribbons of fat (tasty) and cubes of congealed blood (didn't care for them, but I'm not a huge fan of blood-based foods). The noodles were OK, but didn't have the chewiness of the noodles in their pho.

                                    Saw some folks eating some rice dishes with cut up spring and shrimp rolls which looked tasty.

                                    At Pho Saigon No. 1, I just got the lunch special of grilled pork over rice ($5.50). Actually, the pork was more stir-fried than grilled, but it was still tasty.

                                    I'd like to eventually try the com tam at Com Tam. Any other non-soup dishes at either place worth trying? I'd like to keep branching out.