Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lunches at Voice, Beaver's, Pho Nga

It is time to clean old photos from my Blackberry. They remind me of good meals I never had time to write about -- meals such as these three lunches.

Voice box lunch

Voice continues to impress. One of my favorite Voice experiences is the box lunch. It comes with choices, but the basic idea is a salad, sandwich, soup, and dessert.

Back in late October, I ordered this lovely box lunch.

Time passes. Memory fades. Especially mine.

I believe the tasty sandwich was ham and brie on a baguette with some sort of sweet, spicy mustard. I do remember enjoying the texture contrast of cruncy bread and creamy, melted cheese.

The soup was Chef Kramer's mushroom cappucino -- one of the best soups in town. The salad was light and simple. But the short cake -- infused with something like lavender and topped with berries -- may have been the star of this lunch.

Voice's box lunch are a fun break at midday and a great 4-course deal at $15.

Beavers' Buffaloaf

I continue to reserve judgment on Beaver's. The idea of a Monica Pope barbecue restaurant is great. The atmosphere is cool. The cocktails are interesting. Yet the food has not grabbed me yet. But with the addition of Chef Jonathan Jones, I fully expect that it will grab me -- at some point.

The only JJ creation I have tried at Beaver's is the Buffaloaf Sandwich -- buffalo meatloaf topped with a mushroom sauce. I appreciated elements of this dish, especially the crusty French bread and the delicious homemade potato chips. On balance, it was a good sandwich, but the ground buffalo and slightly sweet mushroom sauce reminded me somewhat of Sloppy Joes from elementary school. At $12 for just sandwich and chips, it seemed a little pricey.

I hear such wonderful reports about Beavers from foodies who I trust. And I have tried great creations from JJ at other restaurants. So I need to try more.

Pho Nga's special vermicelli with barbecue pork

Some of Houston's best barbecue is served in Vietnamese restaurants.

A reader asked a few weeks ago what restaurants serve good Vietnamese food near downtown. Sadly, with the exodus to Chinatown, Midtown has lost many great Vietnamese-owned restaurants (like the original Givral's, Le Bec Fin). And Vietnamese food fans debate about some of the remaining restaurants, like Mai's and Van Loc, which are popular with a mostly non-Vietnamese crowd.

The one Midtown restaurant that retains a mostly Vietnamese crowd is Pho Nga a/k/a Nga's Restaurant. A Vietnamese friend tells me that Nga is the only Vietnamese restaurant inside the Loop where she will eat.

At lunch last Friday, I had special vermicelli with barbecue pork. The dish is served with thin noodles, pressed flat on the plate and topped by marinated, barbecue pork with green onions and fried onions. On the side is a mountain of fresh greens, cilantro, shredded carrots, cucumbers, and a bowl of strongly flavored fish sauce.

There is something magical about Vietnamese barbecue. I suspect the secret is the marinade, which includes fish sauce, garlic, chili pepper, lime juice, and sugar. The mix is assetive, yet balanced and even mysterious.

Pho Nga is known for both its grilled meats and its pho. As much as I want to try Nga's pho, I can't seem to convince myself order anything but the barbecue.


Anonymous said...

Beaver's is in full effect now with JJ at the helm. I think ordering a buffalo meatloaf sandwich is a bad call no matter who is cooking. Just does not seem very appealing.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Thien An in Midtown? Its not been open that long but the pho soups are very good and its a very charming little place

Matt said...

The pho at Nga's is very, very good.

anonymouseater said...

Thien An is very high on my list of places to try. I hear its banh mi is currently the best in Midtown.

Thao Phan said...

If you are at Pho Nga again, try their Mi Quang or Com Chien Bo Luc Lac, those are my favorite there! said...

Well, I don't actually think this is likely to have effect.

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