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Nov 15, 2009 11:00 AM

Pho Tu Do - decent vietnamese food

I've been to pho tu do a long time ago, but my friend set up a dinner with a bunch of friends and he picked pho tu do. They used to be across the street, but recently moved a bigger space across the street. The place looks typical chinatown, sort bright white lights, its got some blue lights on the ceiling and white tiled floor, which they need to mop btw b/c they were sort of slippery.

The owner is a very nice guy and they are actually vietnamese, not chinese people from vietnam unlike most viet places in ctown, which are run by chinese from vietnam. He thought i was vietnamese b/c he said i could pronounce the names of the viet dishes well (picked up all the names by going to little saigon in CA alot, its fairly close to where i live...i love the food there) and thats how we got to talking. Said he's owned the restaurant for like 16 years; he speaks good english and also speaks viet and cantonese

Here's what i got:
- banh cuon (rice crepe): bahn cuon is a thin steamed rice crepe that is filled minced meat and mushrooms served with boiled bean sprouts and a steamed bologne type thing and covered with crispy fried onions (they are actually fried for 45 mins if you make them yourself, i learned this from the guy a place in CA, who was very interested in me bc he said i was one of the only non-viet people who goes there). For a long time i thought banh cuon was a inferior version of chinese cheung fan until i tried it at a specialist in CA which was literally a revelation for me; viet food is literally one of my favorite foods now, i think it could eat it everyday. You can read my report about it here and see a picture of it on yelp (i'm R.L. on yelp):
Anyhow, it was nowhere near that good here, although its passable. The rice crepe itself was fairly decent, nice and soft. The filling was a bit bland, which was the problem. But once it got some nuoc mam and chili sauce on it, it was tasted decent.
- bun cha gio: i'm in love with cha gio, which are fried viet spring rolls. I think they are the best spring rolls ever when you dip them in nuoc mam (a sweet viet fish sauce). So i love bun cha gio, which is a cut up cha gio over noodles, below the noodles are lettuce and mint leaves and some cilatro i think. You mix it all up and dip it in nuoc mam and some chili sauce, its wonderful when done right. It was pretty decent here, the spring rolls were a little too thin, but overall had a good flavor and weren't too greasy. The noodles also weren't overcooked, alot of the places in ctown tend to overcook the rice noodles.
- pho bo (beef noodle soup): my friend ordered this, but i wanted to try it to see if it was any good. It was decent, probably one of the better bowls you can get in ctown (although that isn't saying much b/c most pho in manhattan is really bad). The broth had a nice beef flavor, although it was lacking the great complexity that you get when you have really good pho broth, you could also taste the star anise, but it wasn't overpowering. Overall, its a passable bowl of pho, so its worth trying if you are craving viet food.

Overall, it was a decent meal and its probably one of the better viet restaurants in ctown.

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  1. Nice writeup(s)! I like how much detail you put into these. I'm not a fan of the pho at pho tu do (it's been watery and overly salty ever time I've tried it), but I do think they have a better than average banh cuon.

    13 Replies
    1. re: cimui

      hmm ill have to come back and actually try a full bowl myself, i literally took one bite...i thought it was fine with one bite, but ill have to actually sit down and eat a bowl although i rarely eat pho in manhattan b/c i always find it somewhat disappointing (ive sort of become a pho snob after eating really good pho)

      1. re: Lau

        no, you're probably right. i would certainly not be surprised if the pho had improved or was just of variable quality. i think a lot of places are like that. about two years ago when i tried the pho at nam song, it was watery and MSG-laden and horrible. i tried it again more recently and it was pretty good. the pho at nha trang used to be good according to a number of people whose tastebuds I trust. i've never had good pho there, ever. it's probably partly luck of the draw.

        in any case, i trust your judgment. it's about time i gave pho tu do another try, anyway. the nice folks at xe lua are probably seeing way too much of me. :)

        1. re: cimui

          isn't the MSG panic dead?

          Anyway I go to Cong Ly right around the corner, mainly because it seems to be loved by everyone here. But to tell the truth my pho taste buds aren't so well honed. I used to go to Pho Bang and Nha Trang and Pasteur and liked all of them, tho perhaps Bang less so.

          Anyway Cong Ly seems to be well liked so I just follow the recs on here. Do love me some pho tho.

          Oh! Had some spring rolls at Cong Ly and they were great.

          1. re: 2slices

            not a health issue for me: the dancing on my lips just bothers me and tends to overwhelm the natural flavors. it's more an indicator of the kitchen taking shortcuts than an actual physical symptom.

            1. re: 2slices

              I wouldn't say that I'm panicked about having MSG in pho, but if a place is relying on it for flavoring rather than a long, deep simmer, you can taste the difference. (MSG also seems to make me insatiably thirsty, which can be a pain when you've eaten all this good pho and don't have room in your stomach for much more liquid.)

              I think Cong Ly is pretty legit. But eat what you like and not what I or anyone else thinks is good, eh? You'll figure out your own preferences and be able to taste differences in no time.

              Cong Ly
              124 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

              1. re: cimui

                Of all the chinatown Pho I've tried I've yet to find one that I dont like. Mmmm good stuff, wish I knew where to find some out in sunnyside so I could go for lunch right now.

                1. re: 2slices

                  Doesn't Natural Tofu have pho on their menu? It's been a while since I've been there and I've never had it, but I do remember seeing it.

                    1. re: Lau

                      It's in Sunnyside, Queens on the south side of Queens Boulevard between 40th and 41st. It's a soon tofu place and a pretty good one. The spice level is higher at Natural Tofu than at BCD.

                      They've got other items there like bi bim bap, pho, BBQ squid, BBQ chicken, bulgogi, etc. But their main specialty is soon tofu.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        ohhhh i thought you were talking about ctown

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          I've seen it on CH in the outerboroughs board, but Korean has never been my fav. Maybe I'll give it a whirl.

            2. re: Lau

              New Tu Do, it is now called and, it's been a go-to for the last couple months. however, msg still lingers whenever i have the pho but many dishes I've had there (some random stuff) have been good. they have a rice cake fried with egg and preserved turnip that is tasty, the bun are indeed good (the meatball is alarmingly red and unfortunately msg-savoury but really good).

              the place is always busy no matter what time I go, large tables, large family groups too.

              New Tu Do
              102 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

            3. re: cimui

              Salty? I think it's kinda sweet, which is different than most pho that I've had. Not sure if that's from the anise or what, but it's definitely a different component than what I'm used to, though I know all good phos have anise, I can't taste it as much.

            4. I think Tu Do is the best Vietnamese in Chinatown since both Nha Trang and Pho Viet Huong went downhill. I've never understood the appeal of Cong Ly.


              1 Reply
              1. re: Peter Cherches

                I tried Tu Do today thanks to bigjeff for the rec, it has been the best bowl of pho I've enjoyed in nyc thus far. The broth is quite sweet but that's the way I like it; probably could use some more beefy flavor though. Other than that I walked away a happy customer today after finishing off the #1.

                No saw leaf or lime on the side plate-a shame but a minor complaint.

              2. Was there yesterday. Not sure if the "Grand Opening" sign is new or from a year ago. Ordered a bowl of pho. Really substantial. When I usually eat pho, by the time I'm finished with the bowl, I'm left with a huge amount of broth. With this bowl, there wasn't too much broth because the majority of it was noodles and meats.

                Note: There was so much MSG in the broth that I just kept chugging water throughout the day. Personally, not a fan. But if you are, you'll like it here.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  ya its a monster. and they have a heavy hand with the umami crystals. oh well.

                2. I got takeout pho from New Tu Do a few weeks ago. I know nothing about Vietnamese food, and this was my first pho ever. I ordered the pho with brisket and I'm pretty sure I didn't get brisket, as my pho contained these disconcerting mystery meat balls that were so dense they didn't really resemble meat at all. They were borderline inedible. The broth was indeed "MSG-savoury," as another poster pointed out, but I thought it was okay. It came with some delicious fresh basil and bean sprouts, plus a dark, thick, strong sauce that I wasn't sure what to do with. The noodles were good. But those mystery meat balls... not recommended!

                  New Tu Do
                  102 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: brighton312

                    those meat balls are pretty standard asian soup items, and often found in pho. the brisket ought to be paper thin slices of meat, raw, that cook in the heat of the broth. the dark sauce is generally hoisin.

                    1. re: brighton312

                      I always get double meatballs whenever I get pho; the brisket should be dark shreds of cooked meat while the semi-raw is usually the eye of round or maybe flank steak. if you like, order the beef raw on the side so you can swizzle it into the broth for cooking doneness to your liking.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        yeah. brain fart on my part. obviously the brisket is not the thin raw slices. mea culpa

                        1. re: thew

                          haha, raw brisket! reminds me of a smoked brisket (direct heat) experiment gone awry: "screw it, let's just eat it, we're all hungry"

                      2. re: brighton312

                        Yeah, I'm not too much of a Vietnamese soup meatball fan. It kind of has the texture of a rubber ball. Most people I know aren't that crazy about it.