- Matthew Schniper
I'm sipping Pho Saigon Grill's jasmine tea ($1.95/pot) to warm my core on a frigid day, when my waitress places a beautiful bird's nest before me. Or at least that's my first association, as I inspect the tall edges of a fried egg-noodle basket filled with a colorful stir-fry: mi xao don chay ($11.95), crispy noodles with tofu and veggies. I crunch into the form, thinking back to backpacking trips where I was so hungry I crunched strands of cheap ramen raw before my water boiled to cook the rest. Though awkward to eat — the chow mein noodles' hard stringy texture preventing my fork from good purchase on soft bamboo, water chestnut, bok choy, crisp-jacketed tofu and still-toothsome carrot and broccoli — the affair rewards with an easy-digesting lightness. I'm guessing the thin, mild saucing involves the common Chinese black bean sauce, or a Vietnamese equivalent, but I run into a language barrier with staff. Regardless, sriracha, hoisin or chile paste set for pho eaters comes in handy to spice it up.