In a market with plenty of options for Vietnamese food, recently opened 999 Pho has some familiar favorites along with other items relatively new to Reno.
I was eager to try a baacute;nh xèo ($7)—essentially a very thin, enormous crepe of rice flour, water and turmeric, folded in half and stuffed with stir-fried shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and scallion. There was much more crepe than stuffing, but the overall result was still impressive. It was served with a big plate of romaine lettuce leaves, fresh mint and cilantro, which are used to contain and give flavor to the torn-off pieces of crepe. It’s also served with a nc chm sauce—fish sauce, citrus, sugar and garlic. The end result is messy but worth it.
We shared orders of shrimp-pork and fried pork paste spring rolls ($4). The latter featured a flat rectangle of processed meat reminiscent of Spam, but without the salt. The tender shrimp and other ingredients in the shrimp-pork roll were good, but the piece of thinly sliced, incredibly dry pork was a letdown. Even with liberal amounts of peanut sauce, the dish was a bit disappointing.
A pair of baacute;nh mì sandwiches ($4)—one barbecue pork, the other with pork meat and shredded pork skin—involved large, crusty baguettes with daikon, cucumber, carrot, cilantro and more of that mildly sweet and citrus fish sauce. As with the crepe, there was more bread than filling, but the flavors were solid. The pork skin is an interesting ingredient, looking something like a thin noodle but with a slightly cartilaginous texture. It tastes better than it sounds.
Next was a cabbage salad topped with roasted duck ($8). The salad veggies and mildly salty dressing were good, but the duck was very dry and full of bone fragments. Much better was a plate of seafood stir fry with chow fun noodles ($9) and a cold noodle bowl with flame-broiled pork ($8). The seafood and veggies were nicely done and the flavors were good. The broiled pork atop a bowl of vermicelli and veggies was tender and tasty.
A bowl of egg noodle soup ($8) with veggies, lightly seasoned broth and very well-seasoned pork wontons was excellent. Similarly delicious were bowls of seafood pho ($9), with perfectly cooked shrimp, squid and vermicelli in a really good broth and a bowl of very spicy broth loaded with noodles, scallion, and an entire salmon steak ($9). The flavor of the salmon dish was outstanding, though picking bones out of each bite was tricky.
The smoothie menu included both familiar and exotic-to-me tastes ($3.50 each). An avocado smoothie was lightly sweet and strange to my palate, yet refreshing. But when I saw the word durian I knew we had to try it. This infamous fruit is loved by some and reviled by many—even banned in some places, due to its pungent odor, which is something akin to rotting garbage and spoiled meat. Those of us who were game to try first took a sniff. (Yup, something unpleasant going on there.) We then each took a frozen spoonful from the top. If you held your breath it was barely offensive. However, we took a slurp of the melted result at the end of our meal, and it was like drinking the juice that collects in the bottom of a trash can, mixed with cream. It was really gruesome, but I’m glad I tried it—just never, ever again.