Chomp! Rocky's Noodle House serves fresh Vietnamese fare
By by jessica firstname.lastname@example.org
July 25, 2012 at 2:25 a.m.
I wrote my first restaurant column in March 2011 on Texas Seafood. It was about their small, but wonderful selection of Vietnamese food. It hangs on a plaque on a wall in the restaurant, and I see it every time I go there for a big bowl of pho - remember, it's pronounced "fuh" not "foe." So, when I heard there was another restaurant in the Crossroads that serves pho, I had to give them a try.
On a recent visit to Rocky's Noodle House in Seadrift, Luke called ahead of time to make sure they would still be open when we arrived. Luckily, Rocky's was going to be open later than we expected, so we didn't have to rush. However, Luke and I are bad at getting a move on, so when his phone rang a while later, he was surprised to know it was the owner of Rocky's telling us the restaurant would be staying open till about 7:30 p.m.
Luke was impressed by this.
"It's like we're going to go visit a friend now," he said. "That's what it feels like now. Y'know, like he called to see where we were."
I giggled at this and thought it was kind gesture.
When we finally arrived, there were a few other cars parked in front of the small restaurant, and I wondered how busy they might be inside.
Rocky's Noodle House serves up fresh Vietnamese fare, and depending on the time you visit, some traditional music, too. Just like the larger pho restaurants that are scattered along Bellaire Avenue in Houston, Rocky's serves a variety of pho from the combination bowl of beef, steak and meatballs to the single portions bowls. Rocky's also offers a chicken pho, which I haven't seen before. But as soon as I saw the menu, my level of excitement was growing.
The menu at Rocky's is as small as the restaurant, but each plate is made fresh and carefully plated to order. There are only six tables in the building and half of it is partitioned off for the kitchen. If you're planning on bringing a party of more than five, I recommend calling to ensure there is space for everybody. Don't let its particle board walls painted in an off-yellow color detour you from enjoying some good food. Bring some one to talk to you and you'll be fine.
Of course, I ordered the combination pho, with meatballs and rare steak. Luke ordered the rice platter with pork, but when the owner said they ran out of the pork, he opted for the char-grilled honey braised chicken. His platter came with fried rice and egg rolls.
We ordered Vietnamese egg rolls to hold us over until our meal came out. They were neatly rolled and had crispy shell. It reminded me of my mom's egg rolls - or lumpia, the Filipino word for meat egg rolls - because with each bite I would cup my hand under my chin when I took a bite to catch the crispy wrapper as it shattered under the pressure of my teeth. That was something my mom taught me to do so I wouldn't make a mess.
While we waited, a pair of gentlemen walked in with a bottle of white wine and two wine glasses and sat at the table next to us.
Before our food came out, the owner, who I should mention was also our server and an assisting cook in the kitchen, stepped outside briefly and returned with some fresh sprigs of basil from the small herb garden growing in front of the building. It must have been one of the last things to add to our plates because our plates arrived just a minute later.
My bowl of pho was hot and steaming with a few meatballs floating in it. The rare steak, thinly sliced, still had a pink center and was slowly cooking in the hot broth. I was a little disappointed when I saw my side plate only had lime, basil and jalapenos, but no pile of bean sprouts, which are my favorite part of pho. The sprouts always give the soup a fresh, crunchy contrast to the soft rice noodles.
The noodles in Rocky's pho were a little more al dente then I preferred, but the broth was well-flavored with scallions, fennel and the fresh basil. I always add some srirracha sauce, fish sauce, lime or lemon, and this time, just a dab of Hoisin sauce, which is a sweet, savory condiment common in Asian cuisine.
The owner returned with Luke's platter next and it was beautifully plated. The rice was set in a neat pile and the chicken cut and arranged like a puzzle, each slice put in its own place on the plate. There appeared to be no tearing or pulling on the braised chicken, which meant the cook's knife was sharp enough to split hairs.
The chicken was cooked with a slight sweetness and the best part was that it still tasted like chicken. There were no overwhelming sauces or flavors to mask the natural earthy tones of the bird.
The fried rice reminded me of the rice I would find at the many Filipino parties I went to when I was younger. There were carrots, peas, scrambled egg and Chinese sausage cut into uniform bite-size pieces mixed throughout it. I kept plucking the small squares of the Chinese sausage out of Luke's rice with my chopsticks when he was busy taking a bite, so he couldn't protest.
Toward the end of our meal, the men behind us, who might have been regulars, started chatting with the owner. Next thing we know, he pulled one of the guitars off the wall and lent it to one of his customers to play a short tune. I can't remember which song it was, but I know it was an oldie-but-goodie because Luke was singing along with it.
The owner took up the guitar next and started to play a Vietnamese melody. He let out some amazing notes in his native tongue and anyone watching could tell that his heart was in it, just as much as it was on the menu.
Jessica Rodrigo will plan on bringing some bean sprouts the next time she visits Rocky's or at least give them a call to see if they have some. Where should I venture next in the Crossroads? Email me at email@example.com or @eatseatseats.