Madame Vo NYC

I am not a food blogger but I am a foodie. And when it involves Vietnamese food, I’m always down. I’m Vietnamese, by the way if you haven’t already picked that up. And I wanted to highlight a new restaurant in NYC that’s changing the face of Vietnamese cuisine. This is important to me because well, culture.

Growing up, my mom tried to pack me lunch sometimes but because I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I would get made fun of because I was different, and lunchtime was no different when your food smells weird to the other kids. And kids are brutal. Anything different can easily be seen as offensive and you’re instantly shunned. So of course, I stopped letting my mom pack my lunch and started just using the school’s free lunch program instead (cuz duh, we were poor). I grew up wanting to eat American food because I wanted to fit in. Funny because when I left home for college, I instantly missed my mom’s cooking and wanted homecooked meals all over again. You learn in adulthood the things you took for granted were right there all along your entire life. I found a renewed love for Vietnamese food and now it’s my favorite type of food. If given the choice, I’d choose it every time.

What I didn’t like about Vietnamese food culture growing up though, is how underrated it is and how little people know about it. When people think of Vietnamese food, all they think about is pho and banh mis. But in reality, there is so much more than just those two staples. I have so many favorite dishes and there’s so many things you could pick from if you ever found yourself wandering the streets of Saigon. Looking back, I hate that growing up, going to Vietnamese restaurants here in New York, you were limited to certain dishes. I could never find my favorite foods on the menu like banh bot loc, banh bao, banh nam and more. I know, lol, there’s a lot of “banhs.” And they are all different too. It’s not a sandwich. Well, at least not a traditional one.

And on top of that, there’s more to Vietnamese soup than just pho. In my opinion, my people have perfected the art of the soup. There’s so damn many. I wish someone would just open up a solely Vietnamese soup shop and sell them all. Bun bo, bun rieu, banh canh, hu tieu, canh chua, canh ca, hoanh thanh, chao, ca re, I could go on! And there’s different variations of each too. Like how you can have beef pho or chicken pho. Each Vietnamese soup can be catered to your liking. There are endless possibilities of combinations of soup.

But again like pho, there’s more to Vietnamese food than just soup as well. We have so many different rice dishes, noodles, rolls, desserts and more. The problem with America is the same as the Chinese takeout problem. The Vietnamese food exhibited here is simply a tip of the iceberg. And the other problem is it’s usually viewed as “cheap” cuisine because in the past, it’s always been that way. You walk in, you get a quick easy bowl of pho for $6-7. What I never understood is why when Vietnamese food takes a lot of prep and time to make. I remember my mom would spend a whole day making banh tet for New Years. I love banh bot loc but I also hated making them because they were so time consuming to make but so fast to eat that I could never keep up with production enough to keep me satisifed. There are a lot of complicated ingredients and prep required for each dish too. Granted there are a lot of ‘easy’ dishes to make but the art of Vietnamese cuisine is truly undervalued.

This is where Madame Vo and many other new eateries popping up recently in NYC, as well as many other areas of the world come in, as we live in this foodie renaissance. I learned about Madame Vo from the internet a few years ago when it first opened and of course, being a true judgemental AF Asian, I had to go check it for myself. My first time I was definitely impressed. The prices are definitely on the higher of Viet cuisine, but upon tasting its freshness and quality as well as the art of its presentation, you see why. Their pho broth is just like my mom’s. Made fresh and concentrated, not watered down like Chinatown cheap restaurants where you could tell they added water to the remaining pot as their stock ran low instead of making a fresh new pot of broth. They give you more than enough noodles so you don’t leave feeling like there should’ve been more. They also don’t skimp on meat in your bowl either. Their Madame platter is my favorite and best if you go with a big group to help you finish, as it is a lot of food. It’s a nice appetizer platter to get a taste of a little bit of everything they have to offer. I ended up coming back a few more times with more friends even though I don’t usually frequent this neighborhood often. And now even my siblings frequent this spot regularly. They make great bun bo as well as their pho. And their suon kho makes me nostalgic for my mom’s home cooking all the time. They do have a small selection on their menu compared to Chinatown restaurants but it should be noted that they take their time preparing and making sure those dishes are foodie worthy. I do hope they expand into offering some lesser known dishes soon too, like the rarer ones you can’t find in regular restaurants - like of course, my favorite - banh bot loc.

The true test though, is when we took our parents here. Asian parents are the hardest to please, as they like to disapprove of absolutely everything. My parents said nothing to criticize the food when we took them, but nothing directly praising it either, as they are very proud people. But the silent approval came weeks later when my parents asked me for the address because they wanted to take their own friends there, hahaha!

And this winter, Madame Vo has expanded with a new restaurant nearby! Madame Vo BBQ has opened up in the neighborhood and my family stopped by before the New Year to try it out before the public finds out about it and it becomes the next hot new spot. We tried the Bo 7 Mon and the tomahawk steak and man, they definitely didn’t miss the mark. Everything was absolutely delicious and cooked fresh right in front of us with mouthwatering presentations. Our waiter was amazing. He was sweet and absolutely friendly and knew his stuff.

The owner of Madame Vo and Madame Vo BBQ even stopped by to welcome us. The restaurants looks beautiful, modern and chic. I can’t wait to go back and try the catfish later this year when I have a moment as dining hours are limited to 5:30-11pm daily currently.

There are already a few other great Vietnamese restaurants that have popped up recently as well as more on the way. Hanoi House is also another great restaurant I recently tried last fall that houses Northern Vietnamese style cuisine. Everything there was absolutely amazing too and I believe their chef partners with Madame Vo from time to time for tasting events. I have yet to be able to attend these events due to my own schedule’s availability but one of these days, I have to definitely make it out there.

I do have to note that these new Vietnamese restaurants are on the pricier side compared to traditional Chinatown restaurants but in my opinion, worth the extra penny. My friends and I still go to Chinatown for a quick bite every now and then, but when given the choice, we do go out of our way for better quality Viet food and don’t mind paying for it. And just because the name doesn’t have a number in it, doesn’t mean it’s not good. These new restaurants are stepping up and changing the game. Those holes in the wall are no longer cutting it.

What I love about Madame Vo is how they are making Vietnamese food more known and increasing its popularity to the world, but maintaining its authentic flavors and richness. Nothing is watered down to please the masses. It maintains its authenticity to show to the world how delicious it is can be, without needing to be a french fry and chicken nugget version to fit in. They take their time prepping and cooking, not compromising flavor for speed and quick bites. There is nothing “quick” about these spots. You come to take your time, taste every flavor and savor it. And leave wanting more. I can’t wait to see what Vietnamese dining out will look like in the next few years as it evolves further.

Madame Vo is located at
212 E 10th Street New York, NY 10003

Madame Vo BBQ is located at:

104 2nd Avenue New York, NY 10003

Anime NYC 2018

Anime NYC is an anime convention that debuted in 2017 and returned again this fall due to last year’s success. Located at the Javits Center like most of NYC’s biggest conventions, it was similar to NYCC but focused primarily on anime and Japanese culture. This year it was a 3 day weekend event running from November 16-18. I attended Saturday, the busiest of the 3 days, for a few hours to check it out. Compared to last year’s event, it has definitely grown in size and attendance, but in content, I feel like it stayed more or less the same. In Artist Alley, I saw the same artists as last year as I recognize them from the photos I took last year, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice to see more talent and more varied types of artwork featured and different wares. The actual con floor had a few more vendors than last year with some new indies as well as a bigger presence with more sponsors and well known names.

What I like about this con is that they don’t check tickets until you walk onto the con floor. NYCC scans your badge before you even walk into the building. So if you’re there just to cosplay and take photos, you can do so without having to pay for a ticket, which is nice for those who rarely make it onto the floor or if you only want to check out the floor for just a day but want to hang out with your friends on the other days outside the halls.

This con, due to being a newer con and concentrated on a certain niche, is also a lot less crowded and congested than NYCC, so there’s plenty of room to walk around without feeling like someone is breathing down your neck or walking too uncomfortably close to you. Of course there are still lines everywhere, but they are much shorter waits. A smaller con also allows more intimate interactions with your favorite artists and vendors. They’ll have more time to interact with you, take the time to talk to you and invest in you to draw you into their booth. It doesn’t feel like a “NEXT!” culture.

There were some missed opportunities however. I noticed the same food trucks there as every other convention I attended this year. For an anime con, they could’ve invested more in drawing in food trucks or food vendors more relevant to Japanese and anime culture. It’s NYC. There’s no shortage of Asian food, I’m sure. I even stumbled upon Japan Fest earlier this year walking through the streets of the East Village one day.

What I didn’t like about this convention, is the same as all other pop culture conventions I’ve attended so far. There’s not a lot of exclusive merchandise to be found among the vendors on the floor. A lot of it is the same stuff I can easily find here in the states, through a simple Google search, for probably a cheaper price. So it deters me from buying anything on the floors. For an anime convention, I was hoping to find rarer wares. Clothes, toys, makeup, novelties that I could only find walking through the streets of Takeshita and Shibuya. I would be more willing to pay more for those wares. Like Secret Honey clothing or exclusive Sailor Moon Creer Beaute Miracle Romance products. All these vendors need to up their game. 

One of the cutest and favorite cosplays I spotted was Kotoko and Sumomo from the Chobits series, one of my favorite animes. It’s a really cute love story, easy and quick to watch and get through. I had wanted to cosplay Kotoko once upon a time but got lazy but I hate wearing wigs and it’s hard to find a person to commission what you want just right.

I bumped into Vampybitme on my way out, as she was on her way out of the con. She was really sweet to me and my sisters, as my sister shyly spoke Vietnamese to her. It’s funny meeting her up close, as we’re basically the same size. I admire her for turning this into such a successful career and how she gets to partner with so many companies and travel all over the world, especially Japan. Man, I would love to be able to jet set to Japan. Alas, the West Coast Asians and their ability to take chances and invest in riskier careers! The East Coast Asian in me could never make that jump, even though my heart is a West Coast Asian in my fashion style and certain reckless natures. But maybe it would’ve been different had my parents raised me on the West Coast. We’ll never know.

I attended in my casual Sailor Moon Crystal cosplay for the day and got some quick shots from my photographer friends as well. It took me a while to develop the Sailor Moon hair, from trial and error over the years and never wanting to wear a full out wig because I always felt it looked so fake and terrible. It’s really hard to find a GOOD Sailor Moon wig so I’ve always tried to incorporate my own hair with some simple clip on hair pieces. I’ve finally found my own style of how I like to look as my interpretation of Sailor Moon and I’m pretty happy with it. I didn’t do the front bangs because I didn’t want to cut my bangs just for this con. But I like how natural this looks on me as my own style. If only the moontails weren’t so easily tangled, I’d probably wear this hairstyle all the time because it’s so easy to throw together.

Anyways, I’m not sure if I’ll be attending again next year since this year’s content didn’t exactly wow me. It’s still nice to check out for a day for a few hours but I would mark this convention as one you only need a day out of, not a weekend pass necessarily. If you’ve never been, it’s fun to check out and see for yourself since everyone goes for different reasons. But if you’re a seasoned con goer, this might be one and done.