Owner Hieu Hoang and her husband and restaurant manager Kevin Tram took over the former Pho Saigon Grill in May 2020, redecorating, rebranding and rebooting the menu for pandemic times — which is to say shortening it to make it more manageable for a skeleton crew that’s still running it today. (Tram says they too are having a difficult time finding workers.)
I drop in for takeout, craving something light, which isn’t difficult to find on a Vietnamese menu. The pho entices as I picture tearing fresh basil leaves and mint into a big bowl of bone broth, but I go instead for a rice noodle bowl. The bun dac biet delivers “all grilled meats with eggroll” for a fair $12.95, considering ample strips of pork, chicken and beef with a couple small shrimp looking lonely.
Tram doesn’t do the cooking so can’t tell me much about Hoang’s grilled meat preparation, but he says it’s “traditional,” which is to say ubiquitous. That’s not a bad thing, as it’s a starkly simple dish to begin with, built over fork-eluding vermicelli, crunchy lettuce and some shredded vegetables, with a side of nuoc cham (lightly sweet, thin fish sauce) for dousing everything.
The grill-marked meats show uniformly chewy, tangy and succulent while the egg rolls give a more dynamic, faintly sour pork-shrimp punch.