Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, April 08, 2009
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Miss Saigon keeps it simple but doesn’t skimp on flavor. Vishal Malhotra
Miss Saigon Café
932 Melbourne Rd, Hurst. 817-595-0137. Mon-Sat 10am-9pm. Closed Sun. All major credit cards accepted.
Miss Saigon Café
Beef curry $8.50
Grilled pork spring rolls $2.95
Pho ga $6.25
Tofu and vegetable noodle bowl $6.25
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Pho What It’s Worth

Vietnam’s signature dish isn’t all that’s cooking at Miss Saigon Café.

By JIMMY FOWLER

Lovers of Vietnamese food can get downright territorial on the issue of pho (pronounced fuh, not fo), the traditional beef noodle soup that is the Southeast Asian country’s signature dish. Each aficionado claims to have found the most authentic, non-English-speaking mom-and-pop noodle shop that brews up the most sublime, aromatic, and intricately flavorful pho in the area. No one else’s favorite under-the-radar pho spot even comes close. The discussions can get intense. Surely it’s only a matter of time before “Ultimate Pho Fighting” becomes a series on the Food Network.
Miss Saigon Café recently celebrated its third anniversary in the same small strip-mall location in Hurst, so the proprietors must be doing something right. They are English speakers, by the way, but also authentically Vietnamese. In addition to soups, their menu features rice plates and noodle bowl combos to satisfy the carnivore and the vegetarian alike, plus crusty baguette sandwiches with beef brisket, pork, or shrimp that reflect the culture of Vietnam’s former French occupiers, and a variety of curry, ginger, and teriyaki dinner specialties.
But to settle Miss Saigon’s place in the pho wars, we had to order a gigantic steaming bowl of this magical soup. For a twist, we ordered pho ga, featuring chicken rather than beef cooked in a glass-clear chicken stock. The traditional setup that makes pho something of a ceremony arrived in timely order, including the small sidecar plate that includes cool, crisp bean sprouts, sliced, fiery hot raw green peppers, whole tender basil leaves, sprigs of cilantro, and two fat wedges of juicy lime. These are added to the soup bowl –– considering its size, “basin” would be a better word –– according to individual taste, and all were exquisitely fresh.
The soup itself contained a slippery mound of vermicelli noodles with slices of chicken breast surrounded by broth and covered with a fine layering of chopped cilantro and scallions. Everything was Grade-A except the broth, which was disappointingly bland. There is an instant pho and a many-hours-simmered variety with salt, black pepper, ginger, cloves, garlic, and parsley-like anise that has fine lines of flavor like the rings in an ancient oak. The server swore that Miss Saigon’s was the long-brewed species of pho. Nevertheless, it lacked that delicate interweaving of spices from the best that we’ve tried. Make no mistake: Mediocre pho ga will best a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle any day, mostly thanks to the supporting ingredients and the addition of hoisin (the molasses-like dark sweet sauce) and sriracha (flaming hot-garlicky-sweet pepper sauce) from the bottles located at every table. Neophytes could do worse than beginning their pho odyssey at Miss Saigon.
The other items were solid. The grilled pork spring rolls were medium-sized logs wrapped in sticky rice paper and stuffed with chopped iceberg and romaine lettuce, cilantro, vermicelli noodles, and shards of porcine flesh singed around the edges for a great charcoal-y taste. They were accompanied by a ramekin of lemon-grass-and-pepper-seed-laced nam cuoc (fish sauce), a clear, tangy, non-fishy tasting sea stock. The beef curry dish featured pounded-flat slices of lean, mouth-watering bovine mixed with velvety white onions in a medium-spicy curry sauce layered over crushed white rice.
The best dish might’ve been the one with the blandest name: the tofu and vegetable noodle bowl: big bushy heads of crunchy broccoli, jagged-edged orange carrot slices, bitter green-leafed bok choy stalks, white onions, and smooth, square tofu cushions, lightly pan-fried and placed atop thin vermicelli noodles. A larger side of the lemon-grass-and-pepper-seed fish sauce was dumped over the whole delicious veggie-head mess, with all the flavors harmonious yet each one distinctive. Now if the Miss Saigon Café folks can just kick their pho up a notch, they’d be a formidable contender in the Viet-soup smack-downs, too.


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