Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.
Something's up on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, where Pho Saigon No. 1 has settled into the space once occupied by World of Taste, a Chowhound destination for Vietnamese soups and noodles. You'd hope for first-rate pho there, but Joe MacBu found the broth one-dimensional and clove-heavy. However, he loved thit heo gia cay, a stew of roasted pork belly and mushrooms in a rich, complex broth funkified by fermented shrimp paste. Add heat and zing, if you like, with chile paste and pickled chiles. Joe's advice: Pass on the pho and order instead from the handwritten menu.
As for the old World of Taste, its owner and cooks decamped last year to open a new place across the street called Com Tam Ninh Kieu. Its pho is the best Joe's had in New York, distinguished by the broth, "beefy, complex and appropriately spiced." As the restaurant's name implies, though, its specialty is com tam, or broken rice. This is good too, or at least acceptable to Joe's discerning Vietnamese friend from California. The rice itself is solid, but the accompaniments inconsistent: tasty pork skin, grilled pork chop, and shrimp cake; stale, dry egg-pork cake.
Pho Saigon No. 1 [Bronx]
2614 Jerome Avenue (near 193rd Street), Bronx
Com Tam Ninh Kieu [Bronx]
2641 Jerome Avenue (between Kingsbridge Road and 192nd Street), Bronx
Discuss: Vietnamese restaurant shake-up on Jerome Ave
Momofuku Noodle Bar—busting out of its narrow niche of ramen, pork buns, fried chicken, and flavors of Korea, Japan, and various other locales—is now making tamales.
They′re rich with pork fat ("extra unctuous and delicious," says hungrycomposer), and fillings are typically Momofuku-esque: pork and kimchee, cheese and jalapeño, Chinese sausage and spinach. "I lived in Southern California for years and pine for good tamales," hungrycomposer adds. "These may not be authentic, but I think the pork and kimchee tamale is by far the best in the neighborhood."
Momofuku Noodle Bar [East Village]
171 First Avenue (at E. 11th Street), Manhattan
Discuss: Momofuku Tamales
Owned by chefs whose résumés include stints at Absinthe, Delfina, and Jardinière, Trueburger is clearly aiming high with its hamburgers. And while hounds think the beef is, uh, nice ("Not juicy but the meat seemed freshly ground," says singleguychef), higher praise is reserved for the bun, which the blog Tasting Table reports is a half-baked challah bun that's custom-made for Trueburger by the Bread Workshop in Berkeley. "The bun was substantial and rich, nicely toasted," says 10foot5, who observes that it seems like the same bread is used for the croutons in the Caesar salad.
There's a good veggie burger made in-house of portobello mushrooms with mozzarella. "I'd call it almost a fritter, and quite tasty. The mushrooms are sliced, rather than chopped," says myriamg.
But let's not be too harsh on the beef burger, which JasmineG describes as: "Nice sized burger, very juicy, good meaty flavor, good quality condiments, and vegetables on top (especially the pickles, which tasted either housemade or specialty)." Plus there's a nice touch of aioli, and perfectly crisped and salted fries on the side.
Trueburger [East Bay]
146 Grand Avenue, Oakland
Discuss: Trueburger (Oakland) – any reports yet?
Berkeley favorite Vik's Chaat House has finally—FINALLY—opened in its new location. "Everything is newer, cleaner, brighter, nicer and more functionally laid out," in both the restaurant and the market, says BernalKC. "Most importantly, the cholle batura [deep-fried flatbread with spicy chickpeas] are just as massive and steamy and wonderful as they were before."
Although the menu is largely unchanged (there are a few more combo options), abstractpoet loved a special of chicken rogan josh, a tender and flavorful curry. Masala dosa addict TopoTail thinks Vik's version "is better than Udupi Palace's, though perhaps it's just the coconut chutney that's better. Vik's also serves what is hands down the best mango lassi I have ever tasted, and I've ordered it in plenty of places."
And adrienne156 says, "The lamb samosas, when not too liquidy, are probably the best things at Vik's, imho."
Vik's Chaat House [East Bay]
2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley
Discuss: Viks ... now at their new location
Roy's Chicago Doggery has all the makings for the Chi-town classic: Vienna beef dogs, sport peppers, celery salt, neon-green relish, and a poppy-seed roll. But Roy's doesn't stop there. One special, the Oh No You Didn't Dog, is topped with sweet potato mustard and blue cheese coleslaw; the Buffalo Dog comes with buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and celery salt. There's even a whiteboard where customers can suggest their own crazy combos.
The traditional Italian beef sandwich is superior, packed with thinly sliced beef, says rworange. Make sure to get it "wet," dipped in flavorful beef juices. The giardiniera, or pickled vegetable relish, "was so good I scooped from the juice the last bits that had escaped while chowing was in progress."
Also on the menu: the Maxwell Street Polish dog, with a trip through the deep-fryer if you like, says Melanie Wong. It's a salty, oily, satisfying beauty, dressed with caramelized onions, peppers, and spicy brown mustard.
Roy's Chicago Doggery [Sonoma County]
84 Corona Road, Petaluma
Petaluma: Roy's Chicago Doggery – The best lunch counter in the Bay Area that is serious fun … Italian beef and the “"Oh No You Didn't Dog"
Deep-fried Maxwell Street Polish Dog @ Roy’s Chicago Doggery in Petaluma
Does it really matter if what you're drinking isn't actually Pinot Noir? READ MORE
Buttercream Bakery & Cafe seems typical of its genre, with cakes and tarts on the pastry shelves and quiche and salads on the lunch menu, but it boasts some unusual specialties thanks to the Filipino heritage of the owner, who runs the place with her two sisters.
A couple of tropical specialties stand out among the yummy cupcakes, says AntarcticWidow. Ube, a kind of Filipino yam, makes an appearance in cupcakes with lavender-tinted frosting. Chunks of young coconut are layered between cake and frosting. The frosting on the mango cupcakes tastes of the fresh fruit, and there's a layer of sliced mango in there as well. Red velvet cake may be less exotic, but it's nicely restrained: The cream cheese frosting "tasted like cheese and not some sugary mass," says the Widow. Chocolate is less impressive.
Also, a lighter version of a Filipino breakfast is tucked among the morning menu options: organic chicken longanisa (Filipino sausage, typically pork) with garlic fried rice and two poached eggs.
Buttercream Bakery & Cafe [East Bay]
841 San Pablo Avenue, Albany
Discuss: How did I miss Buttercream Bakery & Cafe in Albany?
If you've ever wondered (morbidly, perhaps) about Costco's Kirkland Signature brand of beer (featuring varieties including German lager, amber ale, hefeweizen, and pale ale), wonder no longer. Ann Arbor blog Epic Portions reviewed a $19 variety pack featuring six of each sort of beer. (At $4.75 a six-pack, this is a pretty dang low-cost beer, as you might hope from a Costco product.)
The verdict: The beer's a real bargain at the price, and "each one is a legitimate effort that deserves praise."
More details at Epic Portions, plus the intriguing link between Costco beer and Trader Joe's beer.