Do C restaurant grades scare you? Not me, if they did, I wouldn’t be a frequent customer at Cong Ly where they serve bun bo Hue. I wrote about bun bo Hue a few months ago when I had it at a restaurant in Los Angeles dedicated to the dish. It was aptly named Bun Bo Hue So 1. Unfortunately, in New York, such dedication doesn’t exist, but when the mood strikes, Cong Ly delivers.
Bun Bo Hue ($6) at Cong Ly differs from the version at Bun Bo Hue So 1 in LA. The soup is more fish sauce heavy, the lemongrass flavor is unfortunately less pronounced, and there are no blood cubes. However, on a positive note, there’s a good amount of pigs’ feet and larger cuts of beef shank, both of which are cooked tender. As for garnish, unlike Bun Bo Hue So 1 which provides shredded banana flower, Vietnamese coriander, mung bean sprouts, and lime, at Cong Ly only the usual side of mung bean sprouts, lemon, and Thai basil is provided. This doesn’t bother me so much. Banana flower is visually appealing, but in terms of taste, it’s pretty bland and it’s more about texture, one I don’t necessarily need to enjoy bun bo Hue. (If you ever do want to try it, however, I’ve seen it a few times at the outdoor produce stand on the southwest corner of Grand and Chrystie.) So which is better? If I had to choose, I’d say Bun Bo Hue So 1 because of the lighter, more lemongrass intense soup, but when in New York, Cong Ly works for me.
For non-pigs’ feet lovers like my BF (WHAT?! YOU DON’T WANT TO EAT PIGS’ FEET AT A C RATED RESTAURANT?!), there’s plenty of pho and soupless noodle dishes on the menu at Cong Ly. David always opts for the Bun Tom Nuong ($6), as he did in LA. Since we’re comparing, at Cong Ly they don’t give you as many fresh vegetables, the mint is lacking, and the nuoc cham (fish sauce dressing) is more salty, but overall, it’s still very tasty. Light and fresh, it’s perfect for the summer. Again, if I had to choose, Bun Bo Hue So 1 wins, but both are worth eating. No need to wait for a trip to Cali to eat Vietnamese food.
Just like there’s no reason to wait until Cong Ly gets a higher rating. I’m still alive, that should count for something.
124 Hester St (b/n Bowery & Chrystie St; map)
New York, NY 10002