Super Local Bún chả

I’ve been trying to stay away from actually eating on the street or in alleys. I’ve lucked out by finding really local food in traditional shops, but I know that there is food out there that I’m missing out on because I’m playing it safe. Through some research I found this hidden gem that serves bún chả and nem cua bể. I wish I could tell you the name of the place and the address, but I don’t have that info. It’s a no-name place in an alley with low plastic tables and very low plastic chairs. I’ll give you a location at the bottom of the post.

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Bún chả is grilled pork belly and meatballs in a sweetish broth served with rice noodles. The thing about this place is that they use wooden sticks to grill their meat instead of screens or metal skewers. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. The sticks are well burnt and well seasoned. The sticks full of meat are right on top of the charcoal and the flames flare with every drip of fat. The wonderful char comes through with every bite. I’ve had some good bún chả, but this is, by far, the best.

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The only other thing this place has on the menu is nem cua bể (pork, crab spring roll). This particular nem was also the best I’ve had so far. It came out steaming hot with a crispy skin and a good amount of crab meat. I dipped the nem in the bún chả broth and….wow! I guess when you only do two things, there’s a good chance you’ll do it right.

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If you’re in Hanoi and you want to have the best bún chả and nem cua bể in the city, find this place. It’s very local. Everyone but us were locals, so I had to use my very limited Vietnamese and pointing skills to order. Two orders of bún chả, nem cua bể, and botlled water set us back 70,000 VND ($3.08 USD) total. You can’t beat that.

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Bún Chả and Nem Cua Bể Alley
Look for The Wolfhound Irish Bar
4 Lương Ngọc Quyến
Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm
Hà Nội
The restaurant is in the alley to the right of The Wolfhound Irish Bar.

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Gargano v Ciampa – The Match of Wrestlemania Weekend

Apologies to Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles, but the Johnny Gargano – Tommaso Ciampa is the match that’s gonna steal the show Wrestlemania weekend. Don’t get me wrong, Nakamura – Styles should tear the house down if AJ is anywhere near 100%. It won’t, but that match should headline Wrestlemania instead of Roman Reigns – Brock Lesnar. Gargano and Ciampa have the opportunity to have the match of the year, anywhere.

How did we get to this point where these two best friends are now enemies? Ciampa and Gargano went through a war at NXT Takeover: Chicago in a loss to the Authors of Pain in May 2017. They practically killed themselves trying to get the titles back. That was the last straw for Ciampa. He turned on Gargano and #DIY were no more. We all saw it coming, but it was still a shock the way it went down.

Tommaso Ciampa went away for a while with a knee injury. In the meantime, Johnny Gargano went on to challenge for the NXT Title and had two awesome matches with Andrade “Cien” Almas. Their second match at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia in January 2018 was epic. The match had so many ups and downs. Just when you thought the match was over, it went on for another 20 minutes. After Gargano lost that match, Ciampa finally emerged and attacked Gargano again.

Fast forward and Johnny Gargano loses another match to Almas and is forced to leave NXT. Bye Johnny Wrestling, for now. With Gargano out of the NXT picture, Tommaso Ciampa re-emerged on TV to tell his side of the story. Gargano tried to get his hands on Ciampa outside the Performance Center and even at Ciampa’s home. Good build, NXT. Why can’t the writers on the two main shows do the same thing?

Now we have an unsanctioned match between the two at NXT Takeover: New Orleans. Johnny Gargano is a madman. All he wants is to make Tommaso Ciampa pay for what he did, and all Ciampa wants is to finish what he started. This promises to be a war. These guys know each other very well. I can see this being as good or better than Gargano – Almas in Philadelphia. Johnny Gargano sells as good as anyone in the biz. You want to root for the guy. He’s got heart. He’s not big, but there’s nothing he won’t do in the ring to win. He’s got a Daniel Bryan vibe, and you know how much people love him.

Tommaso Ciampa is talented as hell. He can do pretty much anything Gargano can do, but he’s more physical. These guys are going to beat the hell out of each other and we’re going along for the ride. I don’t imagine these guys will have anything left at the end of this. Get ready for a ton of false finishes. My prediction is that these guys put on the best WWE match of the year. Gargano has to win. He didn’t win the NXT Title, but the fans will be willing him to win this.

In the end, they’ll shake hands out of respect and the past will be the past. They’ll realize that they bring out the best in each other. I don’t think this means #DIY gets back together. Johnny Gargano has done all he can in NXT. It’s time for him to move up. Smackdown would be a good place for him. I can see some nice matches between him and Nakamura/AJ Styles/Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens. If there is another shakeup, maybe Gargano could wrestle Finn Balor/Seth Rollins. My fear is that Johnny Gargano will end up in 205 Live. I know it’s a better show now, but Johnny Wrestling deserves to be on one of the main shows. Ciampa should continue in NXT, and he can be in the mix for the new NXT North American Title.

Let’s not worry too much about what happens after the match. Let’s get ready to see one crazy, emotional match. This is gonna be so much fun. Fight Forever..clap…clap…clap…clap…clap.

Phở Cuốn Hương Mai

There so much good food in Hanoi that I didn’t know where to start. Luckily, there are tons of places around where I’m staying. I did research on so many places, created my own food map, and have so much info on all things Vietnamese food. That being said, because of shoddy mobile data, I ended up in a place I didn’t have any idea about that was near a place I actually had on my map. Fortunately, it all worked out for the best.

Phở Cuốn Hương Mai was a great introduction to Vietnamese food that I had never tried before. Most Vietnamese places I’ve been to in America have your normal pho and banh mi with some dishes that may or may not be Vietnamese. We ended up ordering phở cuốn which are rice rolls filled with fresh cilantro, mint, cucumber, and thin, seared beef. So good, so light, and so fresh. One order consisted of nine rolls. Three of us shared, but I could have eaten all of them myself. They give you a bowl of fish sauce with vinegar to dip that is a tad sweet, and it just makes the whole thing perfect.

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Since we had to share the phở cuốn, we had to order more food because we were starving. We also got beef noodles, Phở chiên trứng. Again, so good! Wok-fried beef combined with a leafy, green vegetable I don’t know the name of, tomato and onion on top of fried noodles (think the noodles that come in the pack of ramen you buy at the grocery store). The noodles came out steaming hot, but that didn’t keep us from going right at it and burning our mouths a little. Did I mention we were starving? The beef was slightly thicker than in the phở cuốn, but it had a similar flavor. The green veggie wasn’t too soft. It still had a bit of a bite to it. Another great dish.

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Even though I didn’t know much about this place, my research of the other phở cuốn restaurants in the area said that they all have fried corn. It’s kind of a thing in the places in this particular area. So, of course, we had to try it. Ngô chiên is corn dusted with something and fried. It’s quite simple, but addicting. It’s hard to stop eating. It wasn’t mushy at all. Each kernel was crispy. It would be nice in place of popcorn while you’re watching a movie.

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Phở Cuốn Hương Mai is really close to our apartment, so we will be going back for sure. It’s spacious, clean, and bright with fantastic food.

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Phở Cuốn Hương Mai
25 Ngũ Xã, Trúc Bạch,
Ba Đình, Hà Nội

Welcome Back Daniel Bryan

Smackdown 3-20-2018

In February 2016, Daniel Bryan went on RAW and told us what we didn’t want to hear. Years and years of concussions had taken a toll on him and doctors told him that he shouldn’t and couldn’t wrestle anymore. It was a huge blow for wrestling as a whole. Who didn’t like Daniel Bryan?

Daniel Bryan was a wrestler, a real wrestler. It was his life and it was hard for him to be around the business but not in the ring giving us everything he had. You could see that he appreciated having a job in WWE, but he didn’t look like he was totally into it. Eight months later on an episode of Total Bellas, we saw Daniel Bryan break down in tears at the realization that he wouldn’t be allowed to wrestle ever again. There were stories of him being understandably depressed and now it was confirmed.

Fast forward to 2017 and there were signs that Daniel Bryan might actually be cleared to wrestle. The verbal feud between Bryan and The Miz on Smackdown and Talking Smack was gold. The Miz got real with Daniel Bryan and said things that hit close to home. It seemed as though a match was the only way this could end. At the same time, Daniel Bryan was talking about going to specialists and getting good news. Could this be true? Unexpectedly, The Miz was shipped over to RAW and the whole angle was dropped.

Three weeks before Wrestlemania, WWE and Daniel Bryan announced that he has been cleared to wrestle. Yes! Yes! Yes! Just when it looked like he would go elsewhere when his WWE deal expired, he’s back. The wrestling world lost their minds. What’s next? His first order of business was to fire Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn only to get beat down by them. They didn’t take it easy on him. He took some nice shots and even a powerbomb on the edge of the ring. Way to get thrown right back into the fire. This is gonna be fun. I expect Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon to take on Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens at Wrestlemania. A tag team match allows Bryan to not be the focal point and allows him to work his way back into ring shape. Knowing Daniel Bryan, he probably wants to go all out in that match. Stay healthy Daniel Bryan, wrestling needs you in it.

Don’t Too Sweet Me, bro

RAW 1-29-2018

The weekend was so full of great wrestling with NXT TakeOver and the Royal Rumble that it was hard getting excited for RAW this week. Luckily, WWE didn’t make this week’s show a chore to watch. I was a bit disappointed that there were no call-ups from NXT, but the show delivered like it hasn’t in a while.

Of course, the show starts off with Stephanie telling us how historic the Women’s Royal Rumble was; in case you didn’t pick up on the vibe the night before. Asuka comes out, but doesn’t specify who she’s going to face at Wrestlemania. Sasha comes out to interrupt. The slow Sasha heel turn continues. Honestly, Sasha needs to be off TV for a while. I know it’s the right time for it now with Wrestlemania around the corner, but her shtick is tired. I get it, you’re “The Boss”.

Asuka vs Sasha Banks happened later in the show. Of course, Asuka won in a pretty good match. Both women got a chance to look strong. Sasha nearly killed herself with a botched dive outside the ring. Her legs hit the top rope as she was diving out and she spiked herself on the ground just as Asuka was about to kick her. It could have ended up very badly for Sasha. The only problem I had with this match is that Bayley was nowhere to be found. Sasha eliminates her in the Royal Rumble, but there is no fallout the next day. Bayley should have at least confronted her at some point during the show, or come out to distract Sasha and cost her the match. Just goes to show you how far Bayley has fallen. WWE is doing this angle and Sasha and Bayley are wrestling at Wrestlemania, but they should have started it from this episode of RAW. Lazy booking.

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The Miz beat Roman Reigns in another IC Title match. Good stuff from these guys. WWE is making The Miz look strong. The rumor is that he’ll be feuding with Braun Strowman at Wrestlemania. Speaking of Braun, he again tried to murder Kane. They had a Last Man Standing match as an Elimination Chamber qualifier. Strowman tipped the announcer’s table/stage over on to Kane and the match was over. How many times does Braun have to almost kill someone before the police charge him with attempted murder? The funny thing is that, for some reason, the announcers had to set up a new table near the ring because of what Braun did when someone could have very easily just tipped it back and things would have been fine. Maybe the area was a crime scene that couldn’t be disturbed.

In the two other Elimination Chamber qualifiers, Elias beak Woken Matt when Matt was distracted by Bray Wyatt, and John Cena beat Finn Balor. Two very good matches. WWE is making Elias look strong and I’m curious to see how he’ll do in the chamber. I know people are probably wondering where Woken Matt is headed. It looks like he now has full control of all the Broken Matt related trademarks. Hopefully this is a sign that he is ready to move forward with this gimmick. I see a Bray Wyatt – Woken Matt goofy tag team coming. It could be fun.

RAW closed out with John Cena and Finn Balor. I don’t know why John Cena had to win this? Maybe Finn Balor still finds a way into the chamber match. He deserves to be in it. That being said, this match delivered. Both guys got in some big spots, and the finish was in doubt until the end. Sure, maybe you thought Cena was going over, but it wasn’t a slam dunk. There were a few times when I thought Finn was taking it. Cena heeled it up a bit with his Too Sweet and the fans booed. Finish came from a Super AA from the second rope. Balor lost, but looked good.

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There were some other matches, but they didn’t move anything along. No surprises on this show, no Ronda Rousey, no Seth Rollins, no Jason Jordan, and no 205 Live guys. Speaking of 205 Live, Drake Maverick (Rockstar Spud) was named the new GM on Tuesday night and a new 16-man tournament started. Looks like they’re getting a reboot after the whole Enzo thing. 205 needed it, whether or not Enzo was gone. I like 205 Live, but they haven’t done it any favors by having the same guys on every week for most of the year when they had so many other talented guys (Gran Metalik) sitting around doing nothing.

RAW delivered this week. Let’s hope they can keep this up on the road to Wrestlemania.

Berni VIetnamese Restaurant

San Antonio is teeming with some fantastic Vietnamese food. Lucky for us! I’ve tried quite a few, but one does everything right. Berni Vietnamese Restaurant in the Medical Center area is hands down, the best. Come and fight me if you think otherwise.

Berni takes care of you from the moment you sit down. While you’re looking at the menu, they bring you a small bowl of clear broth with ground beef and carrots in it. It doesn’t seem remotely Vietnamese, but I enjoy the hell out of it every time. I always end up spending too much time looking at the menu when, in reality, I invariably end up ordering one of two things; a banh mi or a combination pho.

Yes, I went with a grilled pork banh mi. I briefly flirted with the idea of getting a vermicelli bowl, but the words wouldn’t come out when it was finally time to order. The grilled pork banh mi is not only one of the best Vietnamese sandwiches in the city, but it’s one of the best sandwiches in the city, period. The pork is so tender, the carrots and cucumber along with the peanuts add a nice crunch, and the bun is crusty and holds up when you add the delicious sweet sauce. Even though I pour some sauce into the sandwich, I still end up dipping it because that sauce is amazing. I could seriously eat one of these every day.

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The wife went with a combination tripe and meatball pho. Great choice. These meatballs aren’t what you’re thinking. You couldn’t float them in a nice Sunday sauce. These meatballs have a slight hint of cinnamon or nutmeg, I can’t tell which. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that these particular meatballs are wonderful in the pho. The thing I enjoy about the pho at Berni is that the broth is not always the same. It’s basically the same, but there are always slight differences. I like this because it makes me think that someone is actually making the broth and it’s not a powder or from a can.

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Another nice touch from Berni is the purple tapioca pearl dessert you get at the end of your meal. They actually bring it out while you’re eating, but it’s right there when you finish eating. It’s a nice, smooth transition. Another successful lunch at Berni. Of course I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll try something else off the menu. Nah! Who am I kidding?

Berni Vietnamese Restaurant
8742 Wurzbach Road
San Antonio, TX 78240

Japanese Invasion

Royal Rumble
1-28-2018

It was a history making night; at least that’s what they kept telling me throughout the Royal Rumble. I witnessed history! Ok, it felt more like I watched a pretty good Royal Rumble. The Men’s Rumble match was pretty awesome, the Women’s Rumble match was good (better than I thought it would be), and the other matched were average.

Let’s talk about the four non-Rumble matches to get them out of the way. Two of these matches had the potential to steal the show and the others should’ve been very good. Not so much! WWE found a way to squander the AJ Styles vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn WWE Title match and the Usos vs Gable & Benjamin Smackdown Tag Team Title match. The Bar vs Rollins & Jordan RAW Tag Team Title match was fine, just as I expected. I’ll talk about the three-way later.

The thought of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens beating AJ Styles and being co-champions sounds like a whole lot of fun. At minimum, if AJ Styles won, it should at least be a great match because of the three participants involved. AJ Styles won by pinning Kevin Owens in an ok match. The big thing here is that Kevin Owens wasn’t the legal man, so AJ pinning him shouldn’t have been allowed to stand. Too bad it did. I thought Daniel Bryan was gonna come out to make things right and restart the match. In doing so, this would allow KO and Sami to win. You know Shane would’ve lost it and his tensions with Daniel Bryan could’ve gone to another level. With Nakamura winning the Royal Rumble, I can see why they kept the belt on AJ, but that doesn’t make it right.

The Smackdown Tag Team Title match was a letdown. You had The Usos, arguably the best tag team around, against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, who aren’t too shabby themselves. Chad Gable is so exciting to watch. He can have a great match with anyone, or anyone can have a great match with him. This was a three falls match. Somehow, for the first time in history, the same team won the first two falls. I didn’t even know that was possible. Usos retained, but this should’ve been so much better.

The RAW Tag Team Title match came on after the men’s Royal Rumble. Bad place to be. The crowd was coming down from the Rumble, so they weren’t too into this match. Jason Jordan sold an injury for most of the match which left Seth Rollins to fend for himself. The Bar wins and take back the title. Without The Shield and with Roman Reigns being groomed to kick out of Brock Lesnar’s F-5, Seth Rollins doesn’t have much to do. I think the Jason Jordan turn will end up in Rollins fighting Jordan at Wrestlemania. Poor Seth!

Brock Lesnar pinned Kane in a three-way with Braun Strowman. Strowman did much of the heavy lifting. This match was quite physical, and maybe it was by accident. Earlier in the match, Lesnar took a knee from Braun. A legit knee but it might have been Lesnar’s fault for not taking it right. He never turned his head. Later, Brock shoot punches Braun in the side of the head. Looked solid. What a jerk! I hope Brock loses the title soon, even to Roman. I’m tired of the Universal Champion being absent most of the time.

The men’s Royal Rumble was third on the card. I was surprised when they started hyping it up. I was sure the women would go first, but Stephanie had to have her night. I’m not going to run down the list of entrants and eliminations. What you need to know is that is was probably one of the best Rumbles in a while.

Rusev came out at #1 and the crowd lost their mind and kept up their love for him throughout his run in the Rumble. A chorus of boos rang out when he was finally eliminated. Baron Corbin was not in the match very long, and I wonder if this is the beginning of the end for him. Dolph Ziggler came in at #30 and nobody cared. Andrade Cien Almas and Adam Cole (bay bay), who shouldn’t have even been able to walk, were the NXT entrants and they both put on a show, especially Almas. The biggest surprise of the night was Rey Mysterio who came in at #27. Rey looked to be in the best shape of his life. No word on if it was a one-time only deal.

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The final four was Finn Balor, Nakamura, Reigns, and John Cena. For a second I thought WWE was actually stupid enough to have Roman Reigns win in Philly again. They might have burned the place down if Reigns had won. The right guy won and an AJ Styles – Shinsuke Nakamura match at Wrestlemania should tear the house down. It should be the main event, but WWE will give Roman Reigns his Wrestlemania moment instead.

The Women’s Royal Rumble closed out the show. While it was better than I expected, Stephanie McMahon on commentary was horrendous. She didn’t seem comfortable, and all she talked about was what a historic night it was for the women in the match and all women in general in the history of time.

Asuka won the whole thing which was exactly the right decision. To be honest, I thought Nikki Bella or Stephanie McMahon were going to win. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that. There was sloppy action in the ring, but I think lots of people expected it. This match was full of nostalgia. Except for Asuka, the stars of yesteryear got the most pops. The crowd went nuts for Lita, Trish Stratus, Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly, and Vickie Guerrero. If they don’t bring back the older stars, how are they gonna have a 30-women Royal Rumble in the future?

The match came down to Nikkie Bella vs Asuka. Of course, Nikki took Asuka to the limit like no ever has in the WWE because she’s Nikki Bella. What a joke. Asuka wins and while she was basking in the glow of being the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble champion, Ronda Rousey comes out to make her WWE debut. Great job, WWE. Way to ruin the moment. Rousey comes out and stinks up the joint with her bad acting and inability to naturally point at the Wrestlemania sign. Reports are that she signed a full-time deal with WWE. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Match of the night: Men’s Royal Rumble
  • Pop of the night: Rey Mysterio
  • No reaction of the night: Tamina and her white jeans and white jean jacket

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