Vietnamese food is all the rage in New York City now. Over the last few years, trendy restaurants have been serving bun, pho, and banh mi like my mother never would have predicted. There have always been decent spots in Manhattan Chinatown, with my favorite banh mi spot out in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, but no place has really stood out to me as being a place I really love.
In recent months, new “modern” Vietnamese spots have opened, ones that claim to use ingredients that are locally sourced, meat that is grass-fed with no antibiotics and hormones, and organic produce. One of these spots is Hanoi House in the East Village, where my friend and I met last night. I was skeptical about paying $16 for 16-hour Northern Vietnam-style pho, but I was tempted, especially since I want to get my mind out of the thought that “ethnic” food should be “cheap.” My friend and I shared a manila clam rice porridge, a papaya and pig ear salad, and the 16-hour pho with bone marrow, and I couldn’t have been happier. The pho was probably one of the clearest, cleanest beef broths I’d ever had, with a depth where I could literally taste all the elements of pho: charred onion, roasted and simmered bones, star anise, and all of the other different herbs. If the broth had stayed hotter for longer, I probably would have finished it all myself after my friend had her share.