Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pho Thaison

I had to run errands down in Southpark Meadows last week; I still bemoan the existence of this behemoth strip mall (Road Rash, as my mother would say). For those of you who weren't here in the late 1990s, Southpark Meadows was a somewhat remote, lovely, open piece of land where outdoor concerts were held. I saw Dave Matthews and Lilith Fair, and now I see Wal-mart, Super Target, and a ton of restaurants. *Sigh* 

Glad I looked at the map of SM before I left home so I could plan my errands. I find the signage and navigation down there difficult, especially when you're not real familiar with the area. Fortunately, Pho Thaison is on a corner with a big sign, so it's an easier landmark to find. A friend has told me about the location near Mopac and William Cannon; they actually have six locations in the Austin area!

At about 1 pm, there were a couple tables of patrons, but within 10 minutes, I was the only person in the restaurant. (I swear I didn't smell bad!) I ordered the B2 bun bowl to eat there, and a pork banh mi sandwich and C6, Singapore beef, to go.
The B2 is grilled pork with a crispy egg roll over the vermicelli rice noodles; a kicked-up fish sauce is served along side. For $8, there was a LOT of pork, and it was really good. Sliced thinly, probably marinated, and then grilled, it's tasty. A little on the tough side, but the sweetness from the sauce, and the grilled flavors really come through. Egg roll was fairly bland, but not greasy, and the carrots lightly pickled.
When I got home, I unwrapped my other dishes. The banh mi was very large; ok, I know you can't tell from this picture, but it was probably a good 8 - 9 inches long! It's filled with the same pork and pickled carrots, along with some cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. It could have used a touch more mayo or sauce on it, but again, their pork is delicious. The bread was perfect for this kind of sandwich, because it was a bit crusty and flaky on the outer part, but not so it tears the roof of your mouth up. The banh mi do no appear on their regular menu; there was a sign holder at the table with a few banh mi offerings, and I think this was under $5 -- SO worth it!
Now for as good as these two pork dishes were, the Singapore beef fell short. Way short. I picked it because my friend has told me she really likes their Singapore dishes, but I couldn't remember which protein she usually gets it with. (Probably the pork!) I was a little hesitant to order it because it's on the "burning spicy" section of the menu. See all those red chile flakes in the picture? Got you nervous, huh? There was literally no flavor to this dish. And I ate it the following day, so you'd think the heat would have intensified a bit. Nope. It's basically beef with broccoli in a thin, (tasteless) brown sauce. I didn't eat much of it. And the beef was tough.
Pho Thaison was very clean (including the restroom), and the food came fast. Of the four people I saw who worked there, they were all Latino/Hispanic, not a Vietnamese or other Asian in sight. I asked how long that location had been open, and apparently it's been there four years. If you're in the Southpark Meadows area, it's definitely worth checking out, just stick to the pork dishes.

Bits and Bites

-- There's a pop-up dinner party, hosted by RL Reeves of Scrumptious Chef on Saturday, February 9th at Tamale House East at 1707 E. 6th. Heritage pork dishes and St. Arnold Icon Belgian Ale. Someone better go and tell me about it, because I am supposed to be at another event that night, and this would be right up my alley! 

-- For Mardi Gras, Bangers is having a swamp roast on Sunday, February 10th, 12 - 6 pm, along with some New Orlean's style jazz bands. 

-- Special Valentine's dinners -- make a reservation! Peche, Cherry Street, Paggi House, The Carillon (they're doing specials for 3 nights!) and speed dating at Bangers.

-- The 4th Annual Bacon Takedown will be on March 9th! Check their website for info if you'd like to enter this culinary ode to bacon.

-- The Salt and Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria officially opened this past weekend at 1912. E. 7th; they've long been a staple at the weekend farmer's markets so it's great to see the transition to brick and mortar. 

-- Also east, the Rosewood Community Market, has opened. From their Facebook page, they are "a grocery and food hub located in east Austin dedicated to providing fresh food access to the community through the sale of local farmers' goods and products."

-- The John Mueller Meat Company is getting ready to open (Feb. 20th)  at 2500 E. 6th Street. 

-- The Austin's Pizza location on the Drag is now a 24-hour spot.

-- Winflo Osteria has opened at 1315 W. 6th Street in a bungalow house; the picture of their dining room on the website is gorgeous!

-- Sagra has reopened at 1050 E. 11th Street.

-- Fado Irish Pub has a new menu, including some lighter fare items.

-- Freedman's, a bar and smokehouse, has opened at 2402 San Gabriel. 

-- As restaurateur Larry McGuire can't sit still, his latest offering is Josephine House at 1204 West Lynn. Currently just open for lunch and "afternoon snacks and drinks" til 5 pm.

-- The old Vinny's on Barton Springs will be home (late Feb/March) to Peso and Bucks, a 24 hour establishment.

-- Pieous, an artisan pizza outlet is coming 12005 Hwy. 290, just past Rim Rock Trail (and before Bel Terra) on the way to Dripping Springs.

-- Cannoli Joe's on Hwy. 290 in Sunset Valley has ended their reign of Italian buffets.