A Love Letter to Pho New Saigon

Unassuming and nestled between a boring UPS store and a Roundtable Pizza, you have a special place in my heart.

From the day I discovered you and your #56, to the 56th time I’ve devoured this one-plated feast with an extra egg cake entirely by myself, you’ve continued to deliver the same satisfying taste and generous portions through the last three years. Pandemic or not, dine-in or take-out, you were quick to bring out the food and accommodating to my indulgent add-on’s.

Pho New Saigon is the kind of mom ‘n’ pop places that feeds the neighborhood. On any given day, I see families, construction workers, policeman and women, tourists, office workers, all enjoying their conversations, solitude, or meetings over a meal. It’s a hub, In an otherwise isolating suburban city forced apart by concrete and asphalt, people from all walks of life are united by beef broth and fish sauce. It’s a comfort zone of serendipity.

As a fan of Vietnamese com dia or rice platters, I love it above even the more popular pho. The variety of juicy, savory, salty, fatty, and sweet meats overwhelm my mouth in a nuclear explosion of umami. With a simple spoon, I can combine any given number of these ingredients and create variations from bite to bite. It’s a buffet of flavors on a plate.

But com dia is, for some reason, hard to find. Perhaps it’s just underappreciated, or perhaps it hasn’t been “discovered” by “the mainstream” yet. I hunt for it and even then, many of them are unreasonably expensive or disappointing in quality.

But Pho New Saigon, oh you and you. Your #56 puts everybody else to shame. Have you not realized how large and juicy your thicc pork chop is? Did nobody tell you that no one else serves fried shrimp cake in 4 plump chunks of tenderness? Oh, don’t even get started with the generous portions of fried pork skins. The fattiness, beautifully infused with a thick layer of rice powder coating, is a whole experience of naughty sensation as it wraps around each bite of rice. And the Chinese sausage is just a pure indulgence of delicious salty cured pork, pushing you to a dangerous new height that no pho-slurping neighbors in the restaurant understands.

And I always, always want your egg cake added on. Always warm, and always big. The chonky slice is a soft landing after every fish-sauced filled climax. It’s light, fluffy, and full of crab and egg flavors to soothe your assaulted taste buds and ready them for the next attack.

Your restaurant is roomy, clean, and unassuming. Not intimidated by pretentious high-end interpretations that often make me feel like an outsider in my own culture. Not tarnished by the unsavory attitudes and interiors like some neglected establishments. It feels like home, even 30min away from where I live now.

All the utensils, napkins are self-serve, allowing myself to really make myself comfortable. And for me, that means a fork and knife to cut the pork chop, and a spoon and a pair of chopsticks for plate-to-mouth delivery. Two of them to the left of the plate, on a clean sheet of napkin. And two of them to the right of the plate, also on a clean sheet of napkin.

It’s a whole thing. A ritual. An experience that comes with a process, a process to my liking, without having to badger the staff repeatedly for extra utensils.

None of these things, ingredients or service alone, are probably “the absolute best” if you scrutinize hard enough, but nobody else serves them in this perfect balance of portion, taste, and price. As we always say in the user experience industry, it’s not about the individual features, it’s about the holistic experience.

Please realize how beautiful you are. And yes, a #56 with an added egg cake please.

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