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Pho-midable mystery of the missing meat

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Being on time is a trait I often cannot attribute to myself. However, when my friend visits home from New York City and texts me, "Mama Lam is making pho” — I give myself an extra 30 minutes to assure I get a seat at the family table. I prefer my pho spicy and dicey (the smaller the kitchen the better) but with my friend making less frequent visits home, I must venture to the streets for top-tier pho.

I tried Nola Bistro’s rare steak Pho for an early dinner and was relieved by the glimmering online reviews. This is apparently the Cajun-Vietnamese restaurant's most popular rendition of pho, but it left me nostalgic for Mama Lam’s home cuisine.

The savory beef broth was solid and contained a hint of sweetness, perhaps due to the addition of ginger, anise and cinnamon. The bowl of broth came with ample noodles, raw onions, cilantro and bean sprouts. But where’s the beef, girl?

For $9.50, I expected long, paper-thin strips of eye round steak exuding the perfect balance of fat and steak. What I got were five round, tennis-ball-size slices of meat that were just passable.

To make the dish by scratch, it takes roughly 24 hours to prepare the meat. If you don’t have a day, three hours might suffice. And if you only have 15 to 20 minutes, deli meat will have to do.

As a born-again carnivore, perhaps what I tasted was the best pho you can get in Lansing for under $10.

Nola Bistro: Pho and Po Boys

603 N. Waverly Road, Lansing

11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily

(517) 327-4771, facebook.com/Nola-Bistro

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