Category Archives: Little Italy

28 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Grand Bo Ky’s Seafood Flat Noodle Soup is a B Flat

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  If you like to take risks, and you need something that’s just a couple notches above Top Ramen, then go for it.

Have I mentioned my OCD?  Have I mentioned my weak stomach?  So what do I do when I walk up to Grand Bo Ky and encounter a “B” rating on the front window?  Say, “oh boy” to JM and walk in, of course!

Let me shed some light on this new NYC rating system.  A “B” rating means anywhere from 14-27 violations.  I didn’t realize it was this bad until my good friend JH actually frighteningly talked about it just a few days before this outing.  Anything lower than an “A” for him was a huge no-no.  And, in the case of Grand Bo Ky, the New York health inspectors cited 22 whopping violations (so a B-), which have only improved by two since February 2010.  Here are their violations (those in red are “critical”):

1) Food Protection Certificate not held by supervisor of food operations.
2) Live roaches present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.
3) Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.

If you didn’t think I was dedicated to this soup journey before, do you believe me now?  Sure, I’ve eaten at plenty of unsavory-looking Chinese restaurants before, even various food carts, but being told up front that you might get food poisoning makes it impossible for me to blame the restaurant later.  ;o)

One thing to know about me right off the bat is that I don’t really gravitate towards seafood, especially if it isn’t accompanied by or cooked in some sauce, isn’t fried or isn’t raw oysters.  Big, plain chunks of seafood in broth?  Not my thing.

Grand Bo Ky's Seafood Flat Noodle Soup

So, as much as I didn’t want to order the Seafood Flat Noodle Soup ($5.25), it turned out better than I expected.  In general, I looooove flat, wide chow fun noodles, and these were cooked just right.  The broth was nice and light.  The white and black pepper gave it a nice kick.  The three measly shrimp were just sad, and their long pooplines didn’t help their look.  The big, curly squid seemed fresh enough and were as chewy and tasteless as chewy and tasteless can be.  The fish balls were, well, most likely fish balls from a frozen package, which I don’t mind.  And the bean sprouts were M.I.A. until I was almost done the bowl.  Lots more cilantro would’ve been nice, and even some green veggies (scallions don’t count).

So did I finish the bowl?  I finished all except for a piece of squid.  I was hungry!!

Did my stomach pay for it later?  Yes, it was playing a sad little tune afterwards.  And I wish it was just my sensitive tummy, but JM’s was playing its own little dramatic tune after his bowl of wonton noodle soup (which was even less tasty than mine).  Could it be some bad, bad roaches made their way into our bowls?

Here’s what I think – seafood lovers may enjoy this, but, if you’re looking for bold flavors, go elsewhere.  And, unless you’re really strapped for money and need something just a few notes above Top Ramen, easily wobbly stomachs like mine should find fulfillment in A-grade restaurants only.

Grand Bo Ky
216 Grand St.  (btwn Mott St & Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 219-9228

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!

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21 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Pho at Pho Bang: Complexity Disguised in Simplicity

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Good, but not memorable.

The past few months I’ve been thinking about how tough it is to maintain friendships.  I see or talk to the majority of my friends only once a year, or even just once every two months, but, with only seven days in a week and even fewer days my weary body is willing to rock out, most of my time is spent in the company of my best friends.  It’s a bit sad.  So I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to make plans with those I don’t see nearly as often…ones that I may know mostly because I keep up with them on Twitter and Facebook.  From what I read, we have much in common, but will our acquaintance-like relationship turn into a really solid one?  I’m not sure.  Making friends is easy; nurturing them is hard, and sometimes even complicated.

Now what does this have to do with Pho Bang’s Pho?  Allow me to make a loose connection.  Pho has always seemed like an extremely simple bowl of noodle soup to prepare.  Beef broth, rice noodles, thin slices of beef with fresh basil, bean sprouts, wedge of lime, hot pepper slices to throw in as you pleased.  Stir in some hoisin sauce and/or hot sauce to taste, and voila!  You’ve got a semi-custom made bowl of soup.

When I went to Pho Bang with an old friend of mine, JB, he reminisced about the pho we used to eat in Philly.  I forget the name of the restaurant, but it was almost like a second home.  It was incredibly memorable; I mean, it’s been 11 years, and we’re still drooling about it.  The #1 Tai Nam Gau Gan Sach ($5.75 for a regular bowl) – combination rice noodle beef soup with fresh eye of round, brisket, tendon and omosa (tripe?) – at Pho Bang didn’t engender the same reaction.  I have to admit that I haven’t eaten a ton of pho since I’ve been living in NYC the past 10 years, but I’ve heard from some other friends that it’s one of the better places.

 

Pho Bang's Pho #1

 

The rice noodles were chewy and not soggy, the plate of garnish was fresh, and the beef came a touch red, as usual, so it could finish cooking in the hot broth.  But there was just way too much meat for me.  And while I definitely wasn’t asking, “Where’s the beef?”, I was asking where the tendon and tripe were.  I would’ve preferred a better balance of ingredients.

The broth, on the other hand, was just right – not a lot of oil and a touch sweet.  It’s a healer, if you ever needed one.  I left wondering what gives it its unique flavor, so I looked up various pho recipes online.  Apparently, aside from beef and/or beef bones, there’s also ginger, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and rock sugar.  The cloves and cinnamon definitely surprised me since those flavors never seemed to appear in any of my slurping.  But, what was even more surprising, was how complicated the recipes were.  I always imagined a recipe with just two to three steps, each containing only one sentence of instructions, but what I found was unimaginable.  Something that looked so simple was pretty complex.  Much like our friendships.  And I definitely appreciate something more when I know what’s behind it.

Making pho is harder than it looks; eating it is easy.  So I think I’ll stick with buying my Vietnamese noodle soups made to order in a restaurant, maybe Pho Bang (maybe not), and will use the time I’ve saved towards building stronger relationships.

Pho Bang
157 Mott Street (between Broome St and Grand St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3797

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Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!