Pho Viet, Brandon
Even better, about half my dining companions were new to the cuisine, too, so I wasn't the weird one who knew nothing.
Looking over the menu, I didn't even have a clue which dish to get. I opted for an order of fried dumplings, then selected the pork Bun Bo Ga from the half dozen items that sounded appealing.
If you're the adventurous type, this menu has you ruling things out by the ingredients you don't like, rather than decide by the rare thing you do. If I was with my cube mates, I think I would have struck a deal for us to pick four things and share around.
A side note here: One of my coworkers is a veteran consumer of the cuisine and ordered an iced Vietnamese espresso without batting an eye. It looked so good, others went for the same thing.
Basically, you get the espresso pot and it drips down into a glass of condensed milk, you stir, then pour into a glass filled with ice. They were all raving about it, but I was worried that it would dull my taste buds for the food I'd ordered. Looked great, though.
A few moments later, my dumplings arrived. These were vegetarian style, deep fried, rather than the pan fry that I'm used to with other Asian restaurants.
Still they were very delicate. I shared them around, and was a bit surprised that others had never had dumplings. It seems that the filling is very similar to their summer roll, which I'll probably try next time. If I wasn't so intent on trying something different, I would have been quite pleased with these and a bowl of Wonton soup for my meal.
The server came out and placed a plate of sprouts, lime wedges, basil, and jalapeno peppers in front of me and J, seated next to me and stated that it was for our meals. We'd ordered different things, so I was confused.
It became clear a couple of minutes later. Across from me, someone ordered the same Pho that J had, and these items were to be placed in the Pho just before eating to allow them to maintain their flavor and texture.
Soon after, my pork Bun Bo Ga arrived, a bowl of rice noodles and grilled pork, served with fresh vegetables and a fish sauce to pour in and toss like a salad.
As for the flavor, the pork was expertly grilled, the vegetables fresh and crunchy, and the noodles were al dente. I didn't get a lot of flavor from the fish sauce and in retrospect, I should have had a heavier hand with the sriracha sauce provided on the table. Not their fault, all mine. That said, the smells of those bowls of Pho were rather aromatic-I'll try that next time.
One of our party got stuck in a meeting and arrived right after our meals did. He said he'd never been around us when we were all so quiet! Hmm, must be because we were enjoying the food. (Note: He was assisted promptly and had food within minutes. Impressive.)
I definitely want to give this another try, especially after the tutorial given by my colleagues more familiar with Vietnamese cuisine. Pho Viet got high marks from those who have had it many times in the past, and the fact that this restaurant is run by a Vietnamese family tells me that they're probably preparing family recipes they've enjoyed for years.