With at least two other Vietnamese restaurants in the neighborhood, Viet Noodle has to stand out, and it did so on our visit, with the quality of the cooking and the extra effort to be authentic. The banh xeo is the biggest in town, and cooked to a shatteringly crisp texture, rather than the omelet-leaning versions we've had at Kien Giang on an off-day. It's served with shiso, a fragrant herb in the basil family that's not usually seen in restaurants.
Banh mi, the traditional roast pork sandwich, was well-filled with pork and cilantro in a superb roll that rivals the best baguettes in town, for just $3. We asked where the bread had come from, and the only answer we could get was "other Asians." (I don't think it was secretiveness, just lack of sufficient English words. We'll continue to hunt down the source of this fine bread.)
Pho comes in three sizes, and the small is plenty big for most appetites, and just $6.75. My selection was brimming with rare beef, cooked beef, tendon and tripe. If your ration of the latter two isn't sufficient for your offal needs, the menu has an option to buy extra tendon and tripe, which occasioned great hilarity from dining companion Chris.
The pho comes with the usual platter of goodies and seasonings: hunks of jalapeno (unusually searing hot — what's up with that?), bean sprouts, lime, basil, and also a sawtooth Vietnamese herb — ngo gai — that I love for its clean, riverwater flavor when fresh and its lemony taste when submerged in hot broth a few minutes. Although it's traditional with pho, I've never seen it served in a restaurant in Nashville.
Chris opted for menu item No. 32 — steamed rice, grilled pork chop, omelet and meatloaf — because he liked the idea of breakfast, lunch and dinner rolled into one plate. The square of meatloaf was homemade, but from what, I couldn't say. It was clearly an extra step, and was tasty, though it's probably better as a side item than an entree.
Restaurants have come and gone in this particularly enormous location — this is at least the third I've reviewed. I hope Viet Noodle House stays open a long time so everyone can go and get all the tendon and tripe they need.