Dong Xuan Quan (Berlin): A Vietnamese Pho Fix

It only took about a week into my visit to Germany but suddenly, there it was: My massive craving for a bowl of hot noodle soup.

Good thing I was in Berlin — I’d been told before getting here that there’s good Vietnamese food to be had in this city. Vietnamese immigrants, after all, have been a fixture in Berlin since as early as the 1950s, when East Germany began extending invitations to North Vietnamese to come over for training programs.

Where to go? All signs pointed to a spot in East Berlin’s Lichtenberg neighborhood named Dong Xuan Center …

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L’Amant: A French-Colonial Homage

The perfect boîte can be an elusive thing.

For me, it has to have several components — a seductive yet comfortable setting, cocktails that are as delicious as they are inventive, and a menu that goes far beyond basic nuts and cheeses, filled instead with snacky dishes that actually excite.

Recently, I found a new little place in New York‘s West Village that checks all those boxes: L’Amant, a French-Vietnamese bistro that opened early September …

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Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood: Vietnam in the Heartland

It’s always a treat to find good Asian food where you don’t quite expect it.

Recently, that unexpected place for me was Wichita, Kansas, where yes, I’d thought I’d find terrific steaks but Vietnamese? Never crossed my mind.

Now, no matter where I’ve been, be it little Strasburg, Virginia, or Boring, Oregon (yes, there is such a town and yes, I have been there), I expect to find decent Chinese food. (I’ve learned that any place in the U.S. tends to have a Chinese family hard at work somewhere churning out OK versions of General Tso’s chicken and kung pao beef.)

Any other kinds of Asian food, however, is a different matter. So I was pleasantly surprised to come across a restaurant in Wichita that served up not just Vietnamese — but good and less usual Vietnamese dishes.

You can read my full report on Minh Hoa Restaurant & Cajun Seafood in this weekend’s New York Times Travel section. But if you want to see more visuals, carry on reading here…

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Pho Grand: Almost The Stuff Of Food-Porn Dreams


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The longest relationship I had in the six years I lived in Washington, D.C., involved a man with whom I exchanged just a few dozen words.

Once a week, without fail, I would show up at Pho 75 in Arlington, Virginia, where at the front of the line, I would tell my man how big a table I needed, he would gesture toward a spot and that would be it. (Sometimes, he took orders, which might elicit the occasional “You want Number 15 — large or small?” Exciting stuff, I tell you.)

I went back to Pho 75 every week not because of the guy, of course, but rather the beef noodle soup that they serve, which is consistently the stuff that my most mouthwatering, heart-pounding, bordering-on-porn dreams are made of.

The noodles are always perfectly cooked; the beef lovely and tender. But the broth, oh, that broth. (And the stirrings I feel whenever I think of it.) Made from simmering oxtails, cinnamon, star anise, onions and fennel seeds for hours, that soup is so succulent and hearty it could be a meal all on its own.

In the six years since I left D.C. for New York, I’ve been on a mission to find something comparable — to no avail. Sometimes it was the noodles or the beef that failed to measure up but all too often, the problem lay with the soups — they were bland, too sweet or not sweet enough.

After six years of pho-hopping in New York City, however, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally found a version that’s not bad.

Pho Grand in Manhattan’s Chinatown — it’s almost worth cheating on my D.C. man for. 

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Xie Xie: A Little Lost In Translation


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Working my way through the Vietnamese fish sandwich at Xie Xie, the newest addition to the New York Asian sandwich scene, a phrase kept ringing through my head: “I’m not seeing the forest for the trees.”

In this case, it was the fact that two thick layers of dill, paired with a slender portion of turmeric-seasoned fish, ended up being so overwhelming that it was hard to get a sense of the sandwich as a whole.

All you truly noticed was that you had a mouth full of dill. (And a lot of bread.)

As for the fish — which is the star of chaca la vong, the heady dill- and turmeric-scented Hanoi dish that this $8.75 sandwich was modeled and named after — that can be a little hard to detect after wading through all that dill and starch.

Which is not to say that Xie Xie isn’t worth checking out. 

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