Reviewing Restaurants (but not really)

collage with three photos, House of Naan restaurant storefront, Pho Ketkeo restaurant storefront, Yale Sterling Library

One of my goals for the New Year is to continue exploring New Haven’s food scene and exploring new restaurants. My notes app with restaurant recommendations continues to grow, but I want to first appreciate the places that have made me feel at home in my stomach. Each of my restaurant trips has been a microcosm of the Yale experience, so much so that two restaurants encapsulate much of my experiences and identities. I present reviews not of the restaurants themselves, but of my experiences within them. 

House of Naan
65 Howe St, New Haven, CT 06511

Bao’s family and friends at House of Naan!

★★★★★ Family Weekend: During Family Weekend, an in-person occasion for Yale Family members to see their respective student(s) on campus held every October, my family could not make it. However, my friend’s families were in town and invited us friends of their child out to dinner. I had heard of House of Naan, but this was my first time dining in the restaurant. It was the perfect way to meet my friend Bao’s parents and have them meet the upstanding citizens she was friends with. I remember having a dish that was purely chicken, and to this day Bao’s father remembers me as the girl that really liked chicken. Five stars. 

★★★★★ Scholarship dinner: I am fortunate to have a scholarship and a community through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF). There are many of us here at Yale who belong to this organization, and through them, I get a lot of opportunities and resources. One unintended plus is getting to meet other JKCF scholars on campus through funded dinners! This was the second dinner provided through the program and it was as lovely as the first. I was in community with students I largely did not know yet but came to befriend by the end of the night and caught up with those I did already know. 

★★★★☆ Take out: Over the summer (which you can read about here), I lived right across from House of Naan and ate it often when I got too lazy to cook dinner. I always felt guilty not cooking when I had the ingredients in my kitchen, so eating here was always a (very) guilty pleasure. These were more solitary dinners which pale in comparison to my previous evenings at House of Naan, but the food was always delicious!

Pho Ketkeo
21 Temple St, New Haven, CT 06510

Yale Scientific Magazine masthead at Pho Ketkeo

★★★★★ Dinner and a movie: My first time in this restaurant was with my boyfriend as we both wanted to try a new restaurant and simply craved a non-dining hall meal. We were also planning to meet my friends to watch a movie in theaters, so Pho Ketkeo being right across from the (now closed ☹) Bow Tie Cinema made it the perfect choice. We did not know what to expect, but the huge portions and the delicious pho had us raving about the restaurant to our friends later that night. Since then, I have maintained the claim that I know where to find the best pho in the city, and I always tell my boyfriend whenever I go since that is, first and foremost, our spot. Anyway, the Super Mario Bros. Movie was also five stars for how fun it was. 

★★★★☆ Family weekend (reprise): Okay this was not actually Family Weekend, it just happened to be a weekend my parents were in town because they were dropping me back to school after Thanksgiving. They were asking what restaurant I would recommend that wasn’t too expensive, and I told them that our options were limited because everything is expensive in a city; we suburbanites are not used to this. However, they were pleasantly surprised by the food and the portions as this was their first time having Laotian & Thai food. I was also surprised to learn my dad knows how to use chopsticks as I had erroneously believed both my mom and dad would need a fork. We left with full bellies and sorrowful goodbyes. Food was great, but I miss my parents. 

★★★★★ Club outing: The Yale Scientific Magazine masthead team had an all-morning retreat which ended with lunch at Pho Ketkeo. Going with a group of 35 people was chaotic for all, but the restaurant handled us well and got our food out faster than I expected, but I was not complaining. Having been with the YSM for a couple of semesters, getting to meet & eat with the people who help run the magazine and hold entirely different jobs compared to my art responsibilities was the highlight of my week.