This post was supposed to be about the other housewife, from Hanoi. Both Madame and Hanoi House opened in East Village around the same time earlier this year, pretty much turning the Vietnamese scene in East Village upside down. Both heavily reviewed by local media, sometimes even together. Early consensus indicated Hanoi to be the slightly more serious contender of the two, so I set my sight on the hot looking Madame on St Marks. We had a little fling. A little fun with the Bun Cha if you will, and the always dependable Beerlao (which both have). But it felt like I wanted more… Trout! There’s this great looking whole trout on the Hanoi menu, setting the anticipation for round #2.
But it never arrived. Well, not yet at least. The culprit? A Jewish theater! You see I always wanted to see a movie in Village East Cinema, a converted movie theater that was once a Jewish theater. One of the remains from the old Yiddish Rialto days when some two dozen Yiddish theaters spread along 2nd ave. I visited the theater over 100 times during my East Village tours but havent actually watched a movie there. And while the two Vietnamese hotties are not exactly miles apart, Madame Vo’s location made more sense this time. Besides, I was intrigued.
Madame Vo feels a bit more Madamish and less East Villagy than Hanoi House. In fact next to Vo, Hanoi feels like Trashy Debby. I am however attracted to both kinds. But especially to the one with the chutzpah to put a beautiful mural of herself (presumably, but looks very similar) in the front. Who does that? Imagine Ivan Orkin mural in front of Ivan Ramen.
And as for the menu, just like with any Nevada bunny ranch this is the kind of lineup that makes you want to order more than you can handle. After three visits so far, I feel the emphasis should be on the mains. Its a spring roll heavy lineup early on that is uninspiring when compared to the rest of the menu. And that is broken into noodles and rice, where the latter may just mean that it comes with it.
Chao Gio – Spring rolls as satisfactory as spring rolls can get. These were stuffed with shrimp, crab and pork, with the shrimp taking the lead role
Banh Xeo – This is the one dish I didnt quite get. Crepes filled with bean sprouts, shrimp, pork belly and more bean sprouts. Some of the pork was more edible than others, and the dish overall required a heavy dose of the table condiments (Hoisin, Sriracha). I was instructed to make lettuce tacos with these as I often do in Vietnamese places but the flavors were just not there
Garlic Noodles. This dish has a few things going for it including the robust garlicky flavors, and the easy to remember English name.
Bo Lu Lac – No english here, but this dish does speak the universal language of delicious. Rib eye cubes with fried egg come sizzling and oh so perfectly spiced and juiced. This one is a must.
Ga Kho Gung – This is another big winner here. Delicious white chicken meat cubes infused with Ginger arriving in a clay pot that keeps the heat and juices intact. Loved picking those scallions off that thing
Goi Cuon – “Summer rolls with shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce and mint” according to the menu. “Lettuce rolls” according to Ziggy. Thats all I tasted
Mama Ly’s Fried Rice – A good if not standard fried rice. A bit on the sweet side for my taste. Table Sriracha to the rescue again.
Its odd that this reviewer did not try the signature Pho during his three visits, but during the summer heat he starts sweating just by being in the same room as one. But all accounts indicate that this is a very proper rendition. Another big plus, worthy of rounding up to two stars (from 1.75) is the fact that Vo’s dinner items are available for lunch as well, in addition to the lunch specials.
212 E 10th St, East Village
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Garlic Noodles, Bo lu Lac, Ga Kho Gung