I keep lamenting the fact that NYC has almost no Vietnamese restaurants worth going to, so when I go somewhere that DOES, I get as much in as I can. As I mentioned in my Monte Carlo Restaurant post, I only discovered Gil's Thrilling (and Filling) Blog my last night in Albuquerque, and it led me to Phở #1. This made me very happy indeed.
Their specialty is Bò 7 Món, or 7 courses of beef, a something traditionally served at wedding banquets. The table next to me was enjoying it quite audibly. But I was just one person and wanted to try some of the other things on the menu I had never encountered before. They were all winners. First up was Bò Lá Lốt: seasoned ground beef wrapped in wild betel leaves (rather like smaller, thinner grape leaves, referred to on the menu, mysteriously, as "Hawaiian loaf leaf") and grilled. It's one of the Bò 7 Món courses, and it earns its place there: tasty and fun to pick up and nibble on. I also had a variety of phở I had never tried before, Phở Sate Đặc Biệt, or sate beef phở. In this case, sate does not refer to grilled meat skewers, but a chili and garlic paste typical of the Mekong River delta. This is my new favorite variety of phở and I'll definitely order it if I ever see it again on another menu... which will involve going someplace that has decent Vietnamese restaurants... okay, I'll stop now.
As great as that phở was, the grand prize of the meal went to Ram Chiên, translated on the menu as "Central Vietnamese egg roll". This does not even begin to suggest its beauty, and I'm very glad I asked about it: it's BBQ pork, shrimp, scallion, and bean sprouts rolled in a rice wrapper and deep-fried. The rice wrapper comes out both crispy and chewy, and the marriage of BBQ pork and shrimp is of the happiest possible kind... in short, magnificent, and I hope I get to eat it again some day.
414 San Pedro SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108