Join Caitlyn Letterii and Patrick Hood, two investigative reporters working the mean streets of New York City, as they explore and critique the cheap eats available around the Bronx and Rose Hill campus.
Located under the Kingsbridge 4 Train station on Jerome Avenue, this authentic Vietnamese restaurant is largely unknown to the Fordham populace. It may be a little out of the way compared to other local eateries, but for ‘pho phans,’ it is well worth the trip. It’s an especially nice place to go if you want to make an afternoon of it. Check out some of the other hotspots in the area like St. James Park (which is bustling and beautiful) and the very cool Kingsbridge Armory, if you want to get a little local history.
CL: Entering Com Tam Ninh Kieu was like entering one of the hip lofts in any happening and gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn because of its slight, and most likely accidental, industrial atmosphere and very dim lighting. It was rather spacious and would be fine for groups of up to eight or so. But don’t worry if you’re dining alone because the giant mirror covering one wall will trick you into thinking you have a friend.
PH: The mirror is also great if you want to recreate the hit song “Mirror in the Bathroom” by the English Beat and watch yourself while you are eating. Being directly under the 4 train definitely contributed to that industrial feeling, but ultimately, I was not bothered by the periodic sky rumblings as I am quite comfortable with the idea that we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God. There was also a darling little citrus tree in the front that added some pleasant greenery to the joint, but according to a very emphatic sign taped to it, we were not allowed to touch the tree in any way.
CL: Service was quick (although it took a while to get the bill later), and I was pleased to receive complimentary tea, even if it left something to be desired. There were a lot of vegetarian options which was nice, since pho dishes are usually beef broth based. I decided to go with the do xao chay, a vegetable stir fry, as a pho entree.
PH: Being a pho restaurant, I also found it prudent to order the pho. I had pho xe lua, which, according to the menu, was a special combo with thin slices of steak, well done brisket, tripe and whatever Hank tendon is. After a brief Google search, I am pretty sure it was just a typo, not an actual thing that I could eat. I am also not positive that there was brisket in my pho, but I’ll just have to take their word for it. They seemed trustworthy enough.
CL: The portions, as is typical of pho restaurants, were huge. They really solidified the place as an economical choice for all of you out there ballin’ on a budget. The meal itself was quite delicious and filled with all of my top veggies, from carrots to bok choy. The various tastes really complimented each other and the noodles provided a nice base. We also were given a plate of garnishes to top off our meals, and I recommend tossing in the bean sprouts to give your pho a refreshing and healthy crunch.
PH: I really could not stop munching away on those bean sprouts! Talk about tasty. Call me a glutton, but even after I finished my meal I still found myself grabbing handfuls of those little suckers. As for my main course, I was satisfied with my pho, but not thrilled. Admittedly I am not a huge fan of pho, and this did nothing to change my mind. The broth was tasty, as were the noodles and steak. But, the bumpy and much too chewy tentacle-tangles that would occasionally surface and looked like something out of a Syfy Channel original movie and were less tasty. But one place where the meal did succeed was in sating my ravenous hunger, because I left Com Tam Ninh Kieu-stuffed to the gills.
CL: But remember, Patrick, always save room for dessert!
PH: Ask my cardiologist, Caitlyn, because I always do.
CL: We decided to split an order of Che 3 Mau, also known as rainbow 3 color, which was a funky, chunky, sweet and solid beverage.
PH: I would liken it to horchata, as it was a sweet milk-based dessert drink. It also contained little treasures like red beans, cake crumbs, ice, green gelatin of some sort and hints of coconut.
CL: If you have commitment issues like I do, check those anxieties at the door my friend, because the plethora of flavors meant you never had to be tied down by one taste for too long. This is a must try for any horchata fans out there.
PH: So Caitlyn, I think you know what time it is.
CL: Oh, you bet. It’s time for us to give our official Sweet ‘n’ Sour ratings. I have almost no complaints about this restaurant. The ambience was not exactly welcoming, and yet I felt at home. The vegetarian options were plentiful and delicious. The only negative part of my meal was when I accidentally ate a hot pepper and almost (figuratively) died of fright. Thankfully the rainbow 3 color quenched the conflagration on my tongue. So for saving my life (figuratively) and leaving me full, I give Com Tam Ninh Kieu a Sweet Rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
PH: I was also satisfied with our meal, but I’m a little less generous with my rating. While the food was filling, especially for the price, the meal did not wow me. I’m still waiting to have pho that really impresses me. Maybe my standards are too high and I need to take a good long look at myself and what I value in life. But probably not. For the price, the restaurant’s great location, the quality of food and the service, I’m doling out a Sweet Rating of 3 out of 5 stars.
You should try the bean sprouts, the do xao chay and the che 3 mau.
You should pass on the tiny tentacles and touching the tree. You’ll get in trouble!
Com Tam Ninh Kieu
Address: 2641 Jerome Ave (Near the Kingsbridge 4 Train
Phone number: 718-365-2680
Hours: Everyday 9 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Price: Cheap (and cash only)