We found the place. We found the place for a real great Vietnamese meal, at Bien Nho, a family owned restaurant that has been there for unbelievable 20 years and unfortunately doesn’t seem too busy. Just too many Vietnamese restaurants on 17th street, says owner Than. The neighboorhood is rather poor, so the prices are great. Around 7 $ for a small bowl of soup. And they have the real stuff, that you don’t get at other so called Vietnamese places, and that no white person ever orders. That is how the owners kept us in mind!
Our first time there, we ordered ‘Chau Long’, a Vietnamese Rice congee dish with intestines. Yes, that’s right. In Vietnam, it’s one of the cheapest dishes you can get, always packed with meat…leftovers. Never one of my favorites, Murray ordered it and this was his review for Bien Nho on urbanspoon:
I had Bun Mam at our first time there, the Vietnamese soup with fish & meat, with a very strong fishy broth. The owners were so surprised by our order and were laughing throughout the whole time we were there. Haha.
Yesterday when we came back, more than 2 weeks later, they seated us and when she brought us tea (which is for free) and I said ‘Cam on nhieu’ (thank you very much) she looked at us, laughed, and started yelling in Vietnam, calling me ‘Bun Mam’ and Murray ‘Chau Long’ :D. It was hilarious, and soooo Vietnamese. Felt like home. I ordered ‘Bun Rieu’ this time and Murray tried their ‘Pho’. Both were excellent, I was so happy about my Bun Rieu as it is not on the top list of my favorite Vietnamese soups, not even in Vietnam! But they made an absolutely delicious one. Strong tomato flavor, whole fresh tomatoes cut in, delicious shrimps, meat cake, blood cake and everything else I was hoping for.
Than told us that they cook everything with natural ingredients, meaning that soups that have a chicken broth as their base (such as Bun Rieu) are cooked with a handful of whole chickens and soups that have beef broth as their base (such as Pho) are cooked with real beef bones. He said that a lot of places in Vietnam have to cook with MSG and salt to flavor their food, as it the natural ingredients are very expensive. He is very proud of his cooking and his opportunity to cook great food with good ingredients with his wife in Vietnam! So please, everyone, go and visit those two sweethearts! Next time we are going for a Bun Bo Hue.
Embrace your blood cake!
Before we left, I asked them for their names. “What’s your name??” -“My name Hoa, like flower [flowaaaa] !” – “My name Than, like sun!”
Hahahahah. I love Vietnam. Wholeheartedly.