First of: Marilyn Hagerty beat me to this review today. She probably did it better, too. http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/231996/
Not being from North Dakota, I have some very serious cravings for exotic foods more often than not.
When the craving hits, I have three options: go without it, cook it myself, or seek it out.
I had a craving for Pho, a Vietnamese beef noodle dish last week. Those who’ve ever traveled to Asia (or even the west coast) know how great of a dish pho can be. It’s piping hot broth, rice noodles, rare beef and crunchy bean sprouts, all combined into one delicious dish.
If I were a religious man, this dish is what I’d pray to.
Good pho isn’t hard to achieve, yet it can be labor intensive. It’s a matter of balance. The crunch of the sprouts contrasted with the soft noodles. The smooth, beefy broth with the spice of the chili paste. Thick hoisin sauce clash with tangy lime and sweet basil.
This clip from Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” sums it up: http://youtu.be/PsSiA-JHm0U
That’s why when Ian, a classmate of mine asked about a good place to get Pho, I immediately suggested the Drunken Noodle.
The Drunken Noodle is a nice sit-down restaurant in East Grand Forks. Located in the “restaurant row” next to Whitey’s, the Blue Moose and Mike’s Pizza, the noodle is a recent audition to the Grater Grand Forks area.
I was greeted to a rather busy dining room on Thursday night. After being seated, our server took our drink orders promptly.
The menu is simple and consisted of a handful of starters, including Japanese gyoza and Chinese spring rolls.
Main courses include dishes from all over the Mediterranean, Asia and North America.
I didn’t need to look at the menu, however. I quickly ordered my pho and it was brought to my table, along with the proper garnishes promptly.
My first impression: “they nailed it.”
The presentation was precisely how I expect my pho to look like. The glimmer of broth and rare slices of beef make an attractive dish. In fact, the authentic version of the dish calls for raw beef and boiling hot broth – the diner dunks the beef strips into the broth to “cook” the meat.
The first taste was phenomenal. The balance of sweet, spicy, crunchy and beefy was spot on.
My bowl was accompanied by the proper garnishes – sweet thai basil, spicy sriracha, hoisin sauce, bean sprouts and a couple lime wedges.
I like my food spicy and our server was eager to oblige me with some bonus sriracha.
The only critical comment I have over the Drunken Noodle interpretation of pho was about the broth, which was lukewarm.
As part of the yin/yang of pho, the broth needs to be boiling hot, so hot, in fact, that it would take no less than 90 seconds of constant blowing to cool off (to add to the anticipation.)
If it wasn’t for the cold broth, the Drunken Noodle pho would have been out of the park. Still, I will be back on a cold winter’s day to enjoy it again.