While I'm not an expert on Vietnamese food or dim sum, I've had a fair amount of experience in my past 15 years of serious eating. These cuisines have never steered me wrong when I've been traveling and need a fresh and affordable meal in places that are not on the main drag. Because of my positive experiences, I must say that I was more than a little excited about Pho Cafe Saigon. Sadly, it did not live up to my, perhaps inflated, expectations.
When I think of both Vietnamese and dim sum, I think of freshly made and handmade. Both of these attributes show a care and attention to the role that food can play in life beyond just fuel for the machine-body. This attention and care was not present consistently in my recent trip here.
On the positive side, the bahn mi was well flavored in terms of the meat's spiciness and tenderness, and the sub roll was filled with the freshness of crisp vegetables. The pho broth was delicious, and the noodles, while pedestrian were not over or under done. Sadly, the beef was overcooked, and the tongue was much too thick to chew efficiently. This resulted in much of the bowl left untouched.
On the dim sum menu, there existed a great deal of disorder. I feel like much of this might have been due to biting off more than one could chew (both from my and the restaurant's perspective). Dim sum requires a large enough customer base that the restaurant can make dumplings and steamed bao fresh. It does not seem to be the case for Pho Cafe, and they've filled in with pre-frozen products that line the freezers of Asian groceries. I would much preferred to have a small dim sum menu of 5-10 GREAT items than a list of 30-40 meh to ugh items.
Even in the street-side dim sum and pho stands that I've patronized in certain neighborhoods in cities abroad of Texas, I've seen customers take their time and linger, talking to friends and strangers, but nothing at Pho Cafe Saigon made me want to linger this time...at least not yet. I hope that Paul will step it up and prove me wrong because I relish the day when I can get my fix in town rather than driving or flying somewhere else.