Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pho Dai Loi #2 - Atlanta

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a bowl of pho in Atlanta. I suppose it’s just a case of the sheer variety available on Buford Highway causing me to forget about a bowl of that magical broth. Well, in the days preceding Thanksgiving, Atlanta was in the midst of some nasty weather. It was 40 degrees, rainy, and miserable; almost the perfect weather for a bowl of pho. Of course that leaves the question of where to go.

Thankfully, the full time resident bloggers of Atlanta have done an admirable job canvassing the Buford Highway offerings, namely Blissful Glutton and Eat Buford Highway. Looking through their sites, they seem to conclude that Pho Dai Loi #2 is one of the best if not the best pho restaurant in Atlanta. With those recommendations, I settled on Pho Dai Loi #2 to ease the pains of late fall/ early winter.

The funny thing is, I’ve been to Pho Dai Loi #2 before but not for pho. After some other meal on Buford Highway, I had an overwhelming desire for bubble tea. I have no idea why but I wanted a plastic cup full of overly sweet fruit slushie and the potential choking hazard of tapioca pearls, but I felt the need. Even with the deadly potential, Dai Loi #2 made a damn fine bubble tea.

Of course, the real question at a Vietnamese restaurant is where to start? Even though I love the combination of cha gio and pho, it’s a rare occasion to receive the cha gio before the soup. Even so, Jennifer and I agreed that we should give the eggrolls at Pho Dai Loi #2 a try.
They certainly look bigger than the ones I’m used to at Saigon.
Things look good from the outside. The wrapper is fresh from the fryer, crispy, and not at all greasy.
I wasn’t prepared for just how dense the cha gio are at Pho Dai Loi. There’s a huge amount of meat filling and it’s rife with carrots, black mushrooms, and a nice helping of black pepper. Good on its own and even better with the side of nuoc cham, this is some of the best Cha Goi that I’ve had in ages.

As is often the case, Jennifer and I have the tendency to over order. At least that’s how I justify a second appetizer.
Bi Cuon or steamed shredded pork rolls came out looking much different than I expected.
Like the Cha Gio, the Bi Cuon is stuffed to the gills but with a lot more greenery.
Despite the appearance of a salad wrap, this was a very tasty roll. Bursting with greens and black pepper, the pork might have taken a back seat but it was still delicious with the nuoc cham.

Before I could completely gorge myself on Cha Gio and Bi Cuon, my medium sized bowl of Pho Dac Biet arrived.
Topped with plenty of onions and cilantro, I couldn’t help but wonder how much bigger the large was.
Thankfully this bowl of Pho Dac Biet had a proper foundation as the broth was rich with the full flavor of beef and a cilantro background.
With tender, thinly sliced brisket, flank, eye round, soft tendon, and whatever bible tripe was, this bowl was certainly full of meat. Like the broth, each piece of meat arrived with a cilantro accent. It wasn’t unpleasant, just apparent.
After dressing to taste with sriracha, hoisin, and fish sauce, I was enamored with this bowl of Pho.

While I was going through the loud motions of eating my bowl of pho, Jennifer had gone a slightly different route and chosen a Bun, Bun Ga Nuong to be exact.
Fortunately, I was able to steal a bite or two of this bowl and I became a little jealous. As much as I enjoyed my pho, the lemon grass chicken in this bun was excellent.

Even with our own dishes of pho and bun, we decided that an order of com was needed as well. I have no idea why, but the Com Chien Bo Luc Lac seemed like an excellent idea for an unwarranted third dish.
Described as Vietnamese style fried rice with marinated beef chunks, it was a meal unto itself. The fried rice was very simple, looking like little more than pepper, eggs, and rice. There wasn’t any need for embellishment as the beef was clearly the star of the plate.
Served with plenty of onions, this beef was melt in your mouth tender. Studded with sweetness and plenty of black pepper, this was an excellent dish. Sadly, most of it was resigned to a takeout box for a later date. There was simply no room for this stellar beef.

Through all the dishes, the Cha Gio, the Bi Cuon, the pho, the bun, and the com, I still felt the need to order bubble tea. Unfortunately, Pho Dai Loi #2 was out of my first choice, papaya. So with some resignation, I went with a mango bubble tea.
This was a thick bubble tea and almost too sweet to drink. It actually reminded me of a mango cream smoothie, but it was still quite the delicious way to end the meal.

After a meal of complete excess at Pho Dai Loi #2, I have to join Blissful Glutton and Eat Buford Highway in singing its praises. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of pho joints on Buford Highway and Atlanta in general, but after eating at Pho Dai Loi #2, I think I have a new gold standard. I can only hope that I don’t fall into the same trap as EBH where every time I try a new pho, it pales in comparison to Pho Dai Loi # 2. Oh well, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Pho Dai Loi # 2 Address & Information
4186 Buford Highway NE. Atlanta, GA 30345 // 404.633.2111
Pho Dai Loi 2 on Urbanspoon

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