“I really want to try the Vietnamese sandwich,” Chef Dave, said as we wheeled into the parking lot of Elmhurst’s Pho Bac. He was pretty excited because there were baguettes stacked in the window, an unusual sight for midevening. Not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm, I didn’t trot out my theory that restaurant banh mi are passable at best compared to those from sandwich shops and delis.
As we were looking at the menu, I remembered something I wanted to try, call it a Vietnamese French dip. (I’m sure whatever blog I cribbed the idea from does.) In no sort order Chef Dave and I had each ordered a sandwich—classic pork for him and highfalutin steak for me—and a large bowl of pho tai. The latter is the most minimalist of the 10 or so beef noodle soups offered, containing little more than noodles and rare slices of beef.
The pho came first, with its pink slices of rare beef floating in the center of the bowl above a tangle of noodles. I slurped the beefy broth, plucking out a few slices of meat while they were still rosy and rare. These I put aside, the better to create my first ever Vietnamese French dip.
Soon the sandwiches came, and I carefully placed some ribbons of meat inside the baguette alongside the pickled vegetables. I’m pretty sure Chef Dave kept his meat in his soup bowl. And then the moment of truth—the dip. “That’s a good dip,” Chef Dave said with a smile. The airy bread did a great job of soaking up the soup, which in turn gave some much needed moisture to the dry ribbons of steak. It was a thoroughly satisfying, simple meal.
Was it the best Vietnamese sandwich? Hardly. The best bowl of pho? Not really. I’ll wager it wasn’t even the best Vietnamese French dip, but it was the best at the time, and sometimes that’s more than enough.
Pho Bac, 82-78 Broadway, Elmhurst, (718) 639-0000