There was no room at the restaurant where I had reserved a table for two for lunch because I had screwed up the date, so my friend and I went off in search of a substitute. We didn’t have to go far before she spotted a little Vietnamese place, Chez Phung. I was hesitant, fearing that the food wouldn’t be homemade, but Terry saw that the ladies behind the counter were doing some real cooking, so in we went. Well-spotted.
The decor is elemental – one wall painted bright green and another bright yellow – but the effect is pleasing.
The menu is short – another good sign – with a total of only 18 dishes. We started with some tasty transparent Vietnamese dumplings filled with beef and mushrooms, and topped with crispy fried onions.
Terry was going to order the vegetable bo bun without the nems, but I talked her into getting them – so I could taste them, of course. It was a good thing, because they were delicious, with vegetable filling and not a trace of greasiness. The bo bun itself was also a treat, full of fresh ingredients: carrots, flavorful mushrooms, bok choy, cabbage, tofu and even asparagus (not exactly in season, but it was definitely fresh).
I had the beef pho (soup) with rice noodles and was happily surprised by the tenderness and fine flavor of the beef. The soup, with its refined meat broth, was topped with onions, lots of fresh greens and coriander, with bamboo sprouts, a wedge of lime and (not too hot) chili sauce on the side.
For dessert, we shared a comforting cornmeal/tapioca pudding that was not too sweet, but now that I look at the menu again, I wish we had tried the other dessert choice, something I have never before tasted: pandan cake, a a bright-green (from the juice of Pandanus amaryllifolius leaves) Southeast Asian sponge cake. Next time.
And I would be more than happy to go back to this simple little place where everything was incredibly fresh and homemade, terribly reasonable and cooked and served by sweet, motherly ladies.