Pho Tempo (Burnsville, MN)

This is both my first review of Pho Tempo in Burnsville and it is not. That is because Pho Tempo is the new name of the restaurant attached to Saigon Market (in the Towne & Country shopping centre, where Highway 13 meets Cliff Ave.). I posted a pandemic takeout report on it back when it was still called Saigon Deli (that name persists in the check printouts at Pho Tempo). But it’s not just the name that has changed. The space—still open to the market on two sides—has been renovated and the menu too has been given a refresh. The result is what is probably the best Vietnamese restaurant in the South Metro, and one that, in my opinion, gives many of the better places in the Twin Cities proper a run for their money. So we thought, anyway, after two meals eaten there this past week.

If you look at the old menu of Saigon Deli (which still bore the name of its previous avatar, Pho 45), you’ll see that it was all but indistinguishable from the vast majority of South Metro Vietnamese menus. That is to say, the Vietnamese dishes proper were largely restricted to the categories of pho and bun, with the rest given over to pan-Asian menu items. Some of those pan-Asian menu items are still available at Pho Tempo but the menu is now dominated by Vietnamese fare. And when you add in the weekday and weekend specials (not identical), it’s a menu that offers far more range than you’ll find in most Vietnamese places in Minnesota.

Our first meal was a weekday lunch. The missus and I stopped in by ourselves and had a few things: an order of pho, an order of bun bo hue and their banh xeo (a pancake stuffed with shrimp and various other things and served with greens to wrap bites of it in). All of it was very good. You could taste the whole spices in the pho broth (vs. the versions at most places in the metro that are dominated by onion). The bun bo hue broth was not quite as funky/earthy as I like (see the version at Pho 79 in Minneapolis) but was very good anyway. But the pick of the meal was the banh xeo—perfectly fried and a lovely blend of textures and flavours when eaten with the greens and herbs and dipped in the sweet and sour fish sauce. By the way, the bun bo hue toppings included something I’ve not seen or noticed before: thin strips of banana flower. And we were also very happy to see sawtooth/culantro among the pho toppings.

We then went back with the boys over the weekend and tried completely new things. From the regular menu we got the Vietnamese spring rolls with grilled pork (well, we’d wanted the version with pork sausage, but they were out), a rice plate with grilled pork chops for the boys, and the bun with grilled pork and egg rolls. All of these were very tasty but the two dishes we got from the weekend specials menu were the real stars. The chao long, congee with all kinds of offal in it (blood cake, blood sausage, intestines), was head and shoulders the best congee I’ve had in Minnesota and up there with the better ones I’ve had in Southern California as well. It is served with breadsticks on the side and if I lived within 10 minutes rather than 30 minutes drive, I’d try to eat it every weekend. Also excellent was the banh canh cua. This is a reddish soup thickened with tapioca starch and chock full of noodles and various seafood. I didn’t see any sign of the billed crab but between the shrimp, the small scallops, the fish cakes, the quail eggs, and the blood cakes, I was not about to complain. As served, it’s a bit on the bland side, anyway. I have no idea if I did the right thing or desecrated my bowl in some way but I tricked mine out with a couple of spoonfuls of their chilli oil/paste, lime juice and some extra salt and it was even better. These were just two of the seven weekend specials on offer that day.

For a look at the restaurant, the menu and what we ate, click on a pic below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for price, notes on service, and to see what’s coming next.

Prices are very reasonable for the quality and quantity of what you get. With a slight surcharge apparently having been applied for a non-cash payment, we paid $84 with tax and tip for our weekend meal. This was really enough food for five hungry adults, so just over $16/head.

Service? They were very busy at lunch on both occasions but service was far more haphazard on the weekend (when the front of house staff were a completely different set of people). The young man who took our order didn’t write it down and this led to all manner of confusion before we finally got what most of what we’d ordered (one dish never came out but it was just as well as it would have been far too much food, even for us). It was also then very difficult to flag anyone down for water etc. The food was good enough though that all of this did not bother us too much.

I am very much looking forward to trying more of their special dishes in the coming months. And if you live in the southern suburbs, or pass within reach of Burnsville, I highly recommend you give them a go as well.

Okay, up next from the restaurant report end of things: another Southern California report and another Delhi report. Those will both drop on the weekend; I’ll have a bonus whisky review this Thursday (I remind you that recipe posts are still on hiatus—though you can get your fix on Instagram).



3 thoughts on “Pho Tempo (Burnsville, MN)

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