Well we went back to Irvington to try a new Vietnamese joint that opened right next to Batters. They have a restaurant in Westfield, by the same name and evidently business is good.
Like most Asian places around here they have excellent lunch specials all in the sub $7 range and all come with a choice of egg roll, spring roll or soup. To start things off we decided on a fish cake appetizer for 6 bucks.
These are shredded fish and potato cakes and are pretty good. They have a nice flavor with the slightest hint of spice on the back-end. They have an odd texture. By odd I don’t mean off-putting or gross I merely mean it is unique to me. I enjoyed them but I think I would have liked a more assertive sauce. They served a Mae Ploy sauce; that ubiquitous bottled sweet chili that is so popular. It is a fine sauce just rather sweet for these cakes.
After our app we got our spring rolls. I prefer spring rolls over egg rolls possibly because they aren’t fried.
These were big, nicely constructed and full of “stuff”. One complaint is the peanut sauce. Too thick and too sweet. It was like a little dish of pudding. However that is a very small complaint compared to the size of the spring roll.
Pat chose from the stir fry section of the special menu.
I had to go with Pho. I mean the place has Pho in its name. Normally I would get a beef Pho. Thin slices of raw beef in the broth. However this time I thought I would be adventurous and go with meatball . Asian meatballs are different from Western meatballs in that the meat is pounded not minced and adding fish to the beef and, or pork is not uncommon. Every bowl of Pho must have a plate of garishment.
This plate was a bit light compared to some Pho I have had. It consisted of a lime wedge, 2 jalapeno slices some basil and a whole bunch of mung bean sprouts.
This was a very good bowl of food. I would be happy to try it again if I were in the area and hackering for a Pho fix. The food is not so unique as to make this a destination. However if your normal joint is getting boring give this a try. Or if you are in the Irvington area for some of the Christmas festivities give it a try. If I lived here I would be ecstatic that they moved in. Just one more option for lunch or dinner.
Today was a day of serendipity. I went to the Fountain Square area to visit a new brewery that had just opened a few days ago. However I failed in my due diligence and neglected to notice their hours. They are closed on Mondays. Fortunately they are right next door to Rook. That is a joint that I have been quite ambivalent to visit. It has been listed as a Urbanspoon hot spot for quite a while. Hot as in the top 10 of joints people talk about. However the public hasn’t shown much love in their reviews. But in fairness it seems as if the majority of the bad reviews came in their first days and the more positive ones are slower to develop.
The Rook is basically a sandwich shop. The hook; if you will is Bahn Mi style sandwiches. Vietnamese type fillings in a French Indo Chinese bread. Since their opening they have added dumplings and steamed buns on the dinner service; but their main bag is sandwiches.
The place is long and narrow,like a hall way. As far as decor goes it is austere industrial chic. A look that it seems every one is striving for.
That’s right the last picture is a replica of a telephone pole that appears to have fallen through the roof. Get it? Rook. Telephone pole. Bird’s nests. Raven etc. It may sound corny but the real visual is rather cool.
You order at a counter and the young lady brings your food when ready. Before I go any farther I wish to compliment the order taker/ server. She was extremely knowledgeable of the product and was not timid to offer which was her favorite dumpling when I asked her. So on her referral I ordered Mushroom dumplings.
They were very tasty. A nice blend of earthy mushrooms and sweet soy with the slightly chewy dough. I would like another order with some crunchy cracklings on the side and a shot of the ever available Sirachi hot sauce.
For my sandwich I knew before I walked in what I was going to get. The one with the chicken liver terrine. The Rook.
This is a large 9 inch sandwich with a very soft and well made bread. I neglected to ask the source of the bread but in all likely hood it’s Amelia’s; since they are right down the street. The Rook is a combination of their house made terrine and a pork roll of their design and Smoking Goose manufacture. Of course with some wonderful pickled veggies.
The terrine is a blend of pork shoulder and chicken liver cooked and then pressed with enough natural gelatin and fat to hold it together. Think of it as a coarse liverwurst. This is layered with their version of Vietnamese sausage or pork roll and pickled radish, carrot and jalapeno and of course fresh cilantro and mayo.
I really enjoyed this sandwich. The pate was tasty with that earthy quality that only liver can give. It could have easily over powered the meal but it didn’t. It was almost a tease. On the tip of your tongue you tasted the possibilities. Then it proceeded to the middle and you saw more possibilities and before it hit the end the veggies and the pork roll took over. To me the pork roll was the weak link. I tried a taste, by itself and it was adequate. A space filler. A spear carrier for the opera. But in all fairness I should try some all by itself. After all the folks that put together the terrine recipe also created the pork roll.
So if you want a lunch that is out of the ordinary then I suggest The Rook. It is a cozy place with uncommon sandwiches and nice people.
I just had one of the best lunches I have had in a long time, pho sure. Admittedly my knowledge of Asian cooking is limited. I have had Vietnamese food a few times. So today was a wonderful treat.
We started off with 2 appetizers. Spring rolls with fish sauce and Goi rolls with a special plum sauce. The spring rolls were typical deep-fried won ton wrapped pork and veggie rolls. The atypical part was the fish sauce. It had a slight sweet and sour effect. More like a gastric than your typical “duck sauce”. It also had shredded daikon and carrot that added a slight textural difference that meshed well with the savory sweet sauce and the fried pork and carrot. And this wonderful little plate was $2.49.
As for the goi rolls. My o my. Large rolls of,shrimp, pork, veggies and rice noodles in rice paper. They were as tasty as they were pretty. The sauce they served with it was a plum sauce with roasted peanuts. Plum sauce is slightly sweet with the viscosity akin to apple butter. It has a small savory component but when you add the peanuts it blows up. The texture of the nuts, the almost smokiness of the roasting;very impressive. And you too can experience the delight for only $ 3.20
For my main dish I had to try the Rare Beef Pho. Tender slices of beef and rice noodles in a beef broth. That might sound tame enough but the hook is the accompanying plate of condiments. Fresh Thai basil, lime, cilantro and a few slices of fresh chile. The idea is to add the veggies to your bowl to infuse it with the flavors. The aroma is amazing. The taste is beyond that. The bowl was full of meat and noodles and I ordered the small, for $7.95.
Pat order pho as well. Chicken pho.
So… pho a really great and economical lunch you gotta’ go to Pho 54. I scanned the menu and I was going to make a pdf. But I decided to include a link to their website instead. I am going to put the menu on Urbanspoon. So everybody can see what they offer. http://www.indypho54.com/