April 9, 2008
85 Ly Tu Trong Street
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Com tam thit kho (30,000 VND)
Com tam suon bi (25,000 VND)
Com tam bi cha (22,000 VND)
Air-con street food is a popular trend sweeping through the Saigon dining scene. The formula for this genre of eateries is pretty straightforward—ditch the dirty, embrace the modern, halve the portions and double the price.
Plastic stools are replaced by solid furniture, wall calendars of Hong Kong movie stars are traded in for eye-catching color schemes, and inattentive waiters are given lessons in service and hospitality.
Pho 24 is the current leader of the air-con street food movement with hundreds of locations throughout the country. Although not nearly as prevalent, Cơm Tấm Mộc is one of the powerhouses in the realm of broken rice. The decor features light-colored wood furnishings and minimalist decor.
The Astronomer, Matt and I decided to try fancy broken rice after Plan A for lunch fell through. I ordered the com tam bi cha (broken rice with shredded pork and pork skin with a slice of pork loaf), which was high-quality, but wimpy in the size department. Whereas most Vietnamese establishments serve a lot of rice and a little meat, Cơm Tấm Mộc piles on the meat and skimps on the rice. This is perfect for those still on the Atkins Diet, but a growing girl demands more rice.
On a sunny note, the pork loaf was the best I’ve had in the city—the yolk-y topping was fresh and the pork actually tasted like pork. Fancy that. Sadly, I could not get my com tam with a fried egg on top.
The Astronomer was also quite pleased with his com tam suon bi (broken rice with shredded pork and pork skin with slab of barbecued pork), but had to order an extra portion of rice (com them – 4,000 VND) to round out his meal. The hunk of grilled meat was well-seasoned, but truly no better than broken rice sold street-side.
Matt’s com tam thit kho (braised pork bits) was damn good, but missing some hardboiled egg action. Thit kho without eggs is like Lucky Charms without marshmallows, you know what I mean?
If Cơm Tấm Mộc started offering more eggs (fried and hardboiled) and increased their rice portions, I’d be all over it like white on rice.