Cafe Trang appears on the West Side under the name Phở Bar.
September 23, 2011
Phở Bar is a new and welcome addition to the growing (31 are now listed on Urbanspoon now) collection of Vietnamese restaurants, and is one of three such eateries on Albuquerque’s West Side (the others being Viet Rice in Rio Rancho and Viet Noodle in Paradise Hills). Phở Bar is the class act, and among the very best in the Duke City. Already
My first phở experience (which caused a genetic mutation leaving me helpless with a phở craving about every two weeks) was in a small phở house in Northern Virginia that was populated with dozens of elderly men sitting at long oil cloth-covered picnic benches hunched over their bowls quietly (or not so quietly) slurping this magic concoction almost without coming up for air. Yeah, I know, your mom told you to get your face out of your plate and sit up straight. Well, that ain’t the way I learned it in that phở house, so bug off, mom.
Phở (Vietnamese pronunciation: [fə̃, or fuh] is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (phở bo) or chicken (phở ga). The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with basil, lime, bean sprouts, and jalapeños that are added to the soup by the consumer. More specifically, Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở’) in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations feature tendon, tripe, meatballs, chicken leg, chicken breast, or other chicken organs. “With the lot” (made with chicken broth and all or most of the shop’s chicken and cattle offerings, including chicken hearts and livers and beef tripe and tendons) is known as phở đặc biệt (“specialty phở”). A well made phở will warm you in the Winter and cool you in the Summer.
I have recently escaped from my habit of ordering phở every time I eat this rich cuisine. For this visit, however, I ricrelapsed and ordered my all-time favorite Phở Tái Nám (rare steak & well done flank). I asked our server to put the rare beef (tái) on a separate plate so I could add it to the soup after it had cooled a bit. This trick keeps the tái from getting overcooked and keeps the lovely beef flavor alive. [Quoc Luu, one of the owners of Kim Long, showed me this trick. Thanks.] The broth was excellent: delightfully spiced and only lightly salty, and the aroma was heavenly. Plenty on rice noodles done just right. Overall, a superb concoction beautifully staged. It may be quite a while before I get to the rest of the menu. I could eat this phở once a week. Or maybe more often.
The rest of the menu is quite extensive, and resembles that of Cafe Trang in many ways, which should be no surprise. Jane had a plate of Cơm Bò Lúc Lắc (pan-seared Filet Mignon cubes) that was as good as any Vietnamese dish I have tasted. Perfectly cooked and succulent, they melted in the mouth.
There is an extensive selection of spring rolls. The menu encourages diners to mix things up a bit,so we ordered three: Gỏi Cuốn Thịt Nuớng (grilled pork spring roll), Gỏi Cuốn Tôm (shrimp), and Gỏi Cuốn Gà Nuớng (grilled chicken). Each spring roll comes with lettuce, cucumber and vermicelli noodles wrapped tightly inside clear rice paper and served with a spicy peanut sauce. These are the class spring rolls in this town, and the pork is among the very best I have had anywhere.
Càfê Sữa Đá a (Vietnamese Iced Coffee) admirably completed this excellent meal.
You will not find better Vietnamese dishes on the West Side. Albuquerque now has at least three top-notch Vietnam,ese restaurants: Phở Bar, Phở #1, and Kim Long. Pick your location. Corrales is closest to Phở Bar, so it wins by default.