Everyday Eats: Pork Bun from Pho Xpress
This Vietnamese spot downtown cranks out some seriously delicious bún.
Have you checked out Troy Johnson's Ultimate Asian Food Guide in the latest issue? I heard that our resident food critic sampled so many different dishes up and down Convoy that he had enough take-out containers to build a small styrofoam city. I'm still working my way through his many finds, but wanted to nominate one additional suggestion: the bún at Pho Xpress. It's like a noodle salad, composed of thin, rice vermicelli noodles topped with shredded vegetables, mint, peanuts, and your choice of proteins. My personal favorite is the grilled pork and egg roll bún ($6.95).
Bún is standard dish. Like pho, it's served at every Vietnamese restaurant, but each place has their own way with it. I've ordered it all over the city, and found that Pho Xpress does it best. The difference between this bún and all the others comes down to the execution of all of the elements, and the ratio of meat to veggies to noodles.
Everything in the bowl is completely on point. The pork is juicy, and pleasantly fatty, with a flavorful marinade that's slightly sweet. It's sprinkled with sesame seeds and chopped into bite-size pieces, which means you don't have to fumble with your chopsticks at the table. The veggie mix includes shredded carrot, daikon, cucumber, lettuce, and a few sprigs of mint, which are all fresh and lightly dressed, so even before you add a splash of nuoc cham (fish sauce dipping sauce), there's already plenty of flavor. The egg roll is a bit closer to fast food style than traditional Vietnamese, but it's crisp and tasty, with shrimp and veggies inside. The final ingredient -- those thin rice noodles, are cooked fresh so they're warm and nourishing. Some places plate the entire bowl (minus the proteins), in advance which means they can crank out the food quickly, but warm noodles make all the difference.
When you mix it up, you can see just how many veggies there are. This makes a big difference, too. A bowl that's almost entirely rice noodles gets old, especially once you've picked out the meat and egg roll, but when there are this many vegetables, it's tasty right down to the last bite.
Pro tip: you may want to nix the onions, since they tend to overwhelm the other flavors, and go easy on the nuoc cham. I've found that since Pho Xpress does such a great job of dressing their veggie mix, all the bowl needs is a quick squirt of sriracha.
Pho Xpress is located at 1125 6th Ave., downtown (map). It's open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.