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Cafe Diem


dagordon
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haha yeah, but they're not open when i can go! he was asking where he should go in the interim.

i'll get there one of these days though. promise.

p.s. i coulda sworn there was a pho thread here somewhere that these non-cafe-diem posts could be moved to, but i can't seem to find it.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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Good to know that the pho at Pho Hoa is good. I found their summer rolls to be disappointingly pathetic -- small and wimpy and flabby, sauce possibly from a jar.

Across 11th Street at Viet Huong, however, the summer rolls are fat and fresh and tasty and cheap with a lovely homemade gingery-peanuty sauce.

I've been getting bahn mi from Saigon Bakery (behind Nam Phuong) lately due to its close proximity to my house. Doesn't beat Cafe Nhu Y, my favorite, but they're still good. Their pork buns are nice, too.

Edited by serpentine (log)
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well i happened to have a little time to myself today so i stopped down at cafe diem, and got the pho dac biet.

today though, i was a little late, and she told me they had no pho tai. no beef, she said. i said, do you have anything left for the dac biet? she said, sure! and i got a bowl with a nice pile of the crunchy flank and pieces of the bottom round or whatever they used to make it in it. just no raw eye round added, which is fine with me. no tendon or tripe, either, though. i don't know if that was an assumption on her part or what. too bad, though.

anyway the important part of any pho is the broth, since anyone can slice some raw beef and tripe, and this was indeed really good, and pretty darn spicy. it had a great beef flavor, and also wasn't cloudy like pho can be. that is awesome, and shows care in making it.

on the other hand, i think i like a little more anise to it though, and i didn't like the kind of noodles they used. i like those skinny slightly chewy almost translucent noodles; they use the the thicker softer noodles that always remind me of overcooked spaghetti. didn't stop me from scarfing the entire bowl and part of the mrs', though.

either way, i liked it. i'll be back, earlier in the day. but i've been kind of off the pho trail lately and i can't think of what i like best. i always liked pho ha, but like one of your earlier posts, dagordon, the filth of it kinda turned me off last time i was there. i enjoy pho 75 and viet huong, but i can't picture the differences between them in my mind now. the place on the corner of 10th & arch i wasn't thrilled with. i like xe lua; it has a real strong flavor of the spices to the broth, but i haven't even had that one in a while.

time to get back on that i think. pho places are some of the few that i can always take the boy to.

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The noodles themselves are the main reason I doubt I'll ever be quite as enamored with Cafe Diem as some may legitimately be. It's obviously just a personal taste thing, but I'm in mrbig's camp, preferring the flatter, or squarer, firmer, chewier, slipperier kind. Not that I'm completely opposed to rounder noodles from time to time...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I'll eat either kind of noodle. 

The standout about their bo bun hue is the pig's feet.  Very tasty.

Ditto, on both counts (though I've never recognized what that is in the bun bo hue, now I know it's pig's feet, thanks!).

Look, maybe there's room for improvement with the noodles, but imho the broth is so much richer and beefier than what's available elsewhere, and just so delicious, that it's a non-issue. The meat, too, is to me of noticeably higher quality. The tendon, for example, doesn't taste like soap, which it does at some other places, and is in fact a highlight of the dac biet.

There is some variation in the broth -- actually, I think 2 out of probably 40 times it was not so good, but more to the point I did notice when I was there on Sunday that there wasn't as much anise flavor as usual, which I too love. Maybe it'll swing back in the other direction.

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Wait a sec, mrbigjas, were the noodles in your pho the same as what's in phil's picture of the bun ho hue? If so that's not what's usually in it!

btw, you're off probation. thanks for your post. :smile:

Edited by dagordon (log)
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Anyone know how to say "This is one of the best things I have ever eaten" in Vietnamese??

Mon nay ngon tuyet!

Sorry I can't render the tones. First word, rising; second word, falling; third word, flat; last word, one syllable, with the sound pinched off at the end.

Or you can smile and pat your tummy, which is what I usually do; I'm hopeless at tones.

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Look, maybe there's room for improvement with the noodles, but imho the broth is so much richer and beefier than what's available elsewhere, and just so delicious, that it's a non-issue. The meat, too, is to me of noticeably higher quality. The tendon, for example, doesn't taste like soap, which it does at some other places, and is in fact a highlight of the dac biet.

yeah that was my point, really: when you make pho, you buy the noodles, you slice some crappy beef (really is there any other use for eye round?) and throw it in raw, you put in tripe that's pre-cooked, you put in tendon that's pre-cooked, you put in slices of the brisket and bottom round you made the broth with--none of that is the responsibility of the pho place, and none of it makes any difference to the quality of the soup. only the broth is what's important. and truly cafe diem rocks the house. really the clarity of it is what caught me off guard -- i'm used to pho being a little cloudy.

There is some variation in the broth -- actually, I think 2 out of probably 40 times it was not so good, but more to the point I did notice when I was there on Sunday that there wasn't as much anise flavor as usual, which I too love. Maybe it'll swing back in the other direction.

it's probably one of those things where you make it with whatever's there that day. out of star anise? well, we'll get it for tomorrow.

Wait a sec, mrbigjas, were the noodles in your pho the same as what's in phil's picture of the bun ho hue? If so that's not what's usually in it!

yeah they were like bun bo hue noodles.

i gotta get back down there, see what happens when i'm not getting end-of-the-day leftovers.

pho is one of those things i always debate making, but haven't because, why should i?

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Dude! You got the mystery soup.

I just reread your post, and you mentioned that the broth was "pretty darn spicy". The regular pho isn't, and doesn't have the Bun Bo Hue noodles; I think it has precisely the noodles that you prefer.

I sometimes see people eating what you got. It's not Bun Bo Hue -- it doesn't look nearly as spicy -- but it's not their regular pho either. I don't know what it's called -- maybe this is a typical Vietnamese thing, and someone here knows what it is... I've wanted to try it for a while but don't know how to order it.

Next time, get the regular pho dac biet (maybe this is what you tried to order; in that case, I don't know what to say other than give it another shot), it sounds like it may be the perfect soup for you.

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My girlfriend and I stopped by Cafe Diem for lunch this past Sunday: for some reason, hot muggy weather sometimes gives me a jonesing for a steaming bowl of noodle soup.

I got the pho dac biet, and as reported, the broth is very clear and flavorful. It's got a little more oil than Pho Xe Lua's (which I would consider the Philly standard-bearer), but that's not too bad. The noodles have nice chew, and even though I tend to prefer thinner noodles for pho, I enjoyed the uneven texture. However, I thought the meat is inferior to pho xe lua's: mostly overcooked, and not enough tripe or tendon for my tastes.

Overall, it was very enjoyable and as good as any pho in Philly, but unless I was in the area, I wouldn't go out of my way to choose it over Pho Xe Lua. For pho. I did notice after I had ordered that 80% of the clientele were eating bun bo hue- clearly, that's where the action's at. I'll be getting it next time.

-a

---

al wang

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Overall, it was very enjoyable and as good as any pho in Philly, but unless I was in the area, I wouldn't go out of my way to choose it over Pho Xe Lua.  For pho.  I did notice after I had ordered that 80% of the clientele were eating bun bo hue- clearly, that's where the action's at.  I'll be getting it next time.

-a

Never had the pho dac biet, but my understanding is that the bun bo hue is really the only thing to get there.

This from my boss, who's tried it at many of the other places around the area.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Overall, it was very enjoyable and as good as any pho in Philly, but unless I was in the area, I wouldn't go out of my way to choose it over Pho Xe Lua.  For pho.  I did notice after I had ordered that 80% of the clientele were eating bun bo hue- clearly, that's where the action's at.  I'll be getting it next time.

-a

Never had the pho dac biet, but my understanding is that the bun bo hue is really the only thing to get there.

This from my boss, who's tried it at many of the other places around the area.

Heya Herb! I got the same thing from the guy who managed Porky & Porkie's — Diem is IT for Bun Bo Hué.

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I spontaneously decided to head to Cafe Diem for lunch, forgetting that they're closed on Wednesday; bummer!

Instead, we tried Pho Hoa, which wasn't bad a'tall. They're running a 3-for-2 special to celebrate their opening, so I have a takeout soup for dinner tonight, or lunch tomorrow...

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  • 7 months later...

So it only took me, like, nine months to make another try at Cafe Diem... nine wasted months! Anyway, I had the bun bo hue dac biet (the waitress confirmed with me, asking "tendon?" Yes, tendon!) The broth is as good as everybody says it is- though not so spicy. I'm no he-man when it comes to spice, but this didn't raise much of a sweat. Still, rich and flavorful, the important things. Lots of meat, too; more meat than you get in most pho, I think. I'm not crazy about the thicker round noodles, but that's secondary. I'd head back to Cafe Diem any time.

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We try to get there all the time. I would be eating so much more of it if the didn't close *precisely* at 6PM. I've shown up at 6:07 and been told, "no, sorry, closed." But I think they are going to try to stay open later in the summer.

But yes, their kung fu is strong.

Also Andrew did you put the red sauce that is mixed in with some dark sauce (maybe plum sauce?) into the soupy goods? It increases the heat to a very pleasant level.

Also I did *not* like the Bun Bo Hue/Pho Dac Biet from Pho Hoa at all. But I have had other things there that were good.

Edited by mattohara (log)

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matt o'hara

finding philly

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Another good place to check out in that area is "Oriental Restaurant" around the corner on Wash. Weird hours also but good soups and quail.

"..French Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Chocolate Deluxe, even Caramel sundaes is getting touched.." Ice Cream

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Also Andrew did you put the red sauce that is mixed in with some dark sauce (maybe plum sauce?) into the soupy goods?  It increases the heat to a very pleasant level.

I did not try it, though maybe next time. I wasn't really out to demolish my mouth, but it's good to know that there's an option.

Greg: any more specific recommendations at Oriental Restaurant? I'm always up for some good soup...

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Andrew, if it's good soups you're after you should try the non-pho soups at Pho Xe Lua (Beef Satay with Noodle is awesome), any of the soups at Xiao Guan Garden or the soups (pho in particular) at Cafe Viet Huong.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Also Andrew did you put the red sauce that is mixed in with some dark sauce (maybe plum sauce?) into the soupy goods?  It increases the heat to a very pleasant level.

I did not try it, though maybe next time. I wasn't really out to demolish my mouth, but it's good to know that there's an option.

Greg: any more specific recommendations at Oriental Restaurant? I'm always up for some good soup...

I had a really good lump crab and enoki mushroom soup that was excellent and a fish maw soup that was great.

"..French Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Chocolate Deluxe, even Caramel sundaes is getting touched.." Ice Cream

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