Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pho Viet Anh

Pho Viet Anh is a small, not quite hole in the wall pho restaurant with ultra-attentive service and a super clean kitchen. They offer a choice of broth and a choice of meat and you can even go vegetarian if you want. They also have other options on the menu like various spring rolls (fresh or fried), fried rice and noodle bowls.

On our first visit I chose a large bowl of pho with spicy broth and meatballs. I love spicy food but this broth was not what I would describe as spicy though it did have more complexity to it than standard pho broth does. If you feel like pho but want a little more flavor and kick to your soup then this might be the fix. For our second visit I had a large bowl of pho with regular broth and brisket. The brisket had some serious grisle to it which is a little awkward to manage in a bowl of soup without a knife and fork. It would be a pretty easy thing to correct by just cleaning up the slices. However, I think this is an American preference to have all reminders that you are eating an animal removed from the meat being consumed. Menudo anyone? The broth is served with lots of herbs and a huge pile of rice noodles in it and the portions are very generous.

I am never very excited about meat that comes to me in pho. When I get excited about meat it is an over-the-top delicious steak or amazing ground meat mixture in a bolognese sauce. Cheapish meat served in asian restaurants has never tantalized me. However my husband, who is what I would describe as a pho ninja, loved this pho and specifically  the meat. He always orders the tai and thought it was better quality than the usual fare.

We also ordered some fried vegie rolls which I loved. They were crispy though not as hot as I would have liked them to be, served with a delicious dipping sauce and super crispy cabbage leaves that looked decorative but actually tasted perfect with the rolls. They had vegies and noodles inside and were golden brown on the outside. They came out immediately which is good and bad. They were obviously pre-prepared instead of being made on the spot which explains why they weren't super hot.

The ultra-attentive service, super clean kitchen and great pho make this one of the best pho restaurants in Seattle. Some pho restaurants have good pho but are lacking in other ways so Pho Viet Anh grabs the spotlight for me because of this winning combination.

Pho Viet Anh on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Emmer and Rye: Take Two

I was at Emmer and Rye again with a party of ten instead of two this time. We were the annoying group who couldn't make up their mind on what to eat or drink. The wait staff was pretty tolerant. They didn't rush us and kept returning to the table to check-in and see if we were ready to actually start spending money. It was loud because there were ten chattering women so the waitress had a little trouble being heard. She made up for this by first speaking to one half of the table and then moving to the other side to repeat what she had just said. With a more commanding voice or presence, she could have made this a one time stop but it was a polite way to deal with her somewhat quiet voice.

My first course consisted of a frisee, artichoke salad with bacon dressing. Bacon and artichokes are a good combination. The salad came together nicely with visible chunks of (non-fatty) bacon on top, crisp frisee that had been torn into bite sized portions and artichoke chunks. The salad was well thought out and nicely presented. It seemed like a brain child. It came with a wedge of super soft cheese that was a good compliment to everything else in the salad. It was one of those dishes that taste best if you take a little bit of each item in the mix and form a manageable bite with it. Those bites were delicious.

My main course was hanger steak with squash, brussels sprouts and cheese. This was a beautifully presented dish. The squash was cut into small flower shaped rounds (the natural shape of the squash). The emptied out center was filled with delicious, crunchy brussels sprouts and cheese. This is my favorite way to eat brussels sprouts when they taste like they have been roasted in the oven, salty and slightly crunchy. These had been cut into small pieces which allowed them to sit in the center of the squash and to maximize the crunchy surface area. The slightly sweet squash, crispy brussels sprouts and cheese made a great combination. The hanger steak was perfectly cooked and soft and tender. Its only downside was that it was cold which I assume was just a kitchen timing issue. With a party of ten, it seems like an easy issue to run into. They served all ten of us at once and it is hard to coordinate that many different dishes to come out at the same time.

Some of my friends complained of small portions, mainly the vegetarian options. They did look a little small and I think in general for vegetarian dishes, there needs to be a little more food.

Our red wine was a Lumus Pinto Noir which I didn't love but that was because it wasn't really the right wine for my meal. The other diners seemed happy with it as we went through two bottles of it and two bottles of white though I didn't imbibe in the white.

The restaurant seemed warmer than the last time I visited. I don't know if that is because I was surrounded by nine other people and was sitting in the center room in the restaurant. It was a Friday night and busy but the service was attentive and prompt and everyone seemed to love their food despite the complaints of size.