January 3rd, 2006


pho hoa

You know it's an odd pho experience when the traditional upscale-looking Vietnamese restaurant (clear tropical fishtanks, dark wood, cream-pink walls unless I really misjudged the red glow outside) stops playing the CD of froofy heavily orchestrated vaguely-pentatonic music and begins to play the Bee Gees.

And not the disco-era Bee Gees, I'm talking the late 60s/early 70s Beatles soundalike "Massachusetts" and "I've Gotta Get A Message To You" Bee Gees.

Still, it's not enough to get me to go back to Beach Street again. The pho wasn't made fresh to order, which amazed me. How lazy do you have to be to insist upon, as your working model, bowls o' pho just sitting around doing nothing? I mean, it's okay to have vats of the broth on burners waiting to go (and what a pleasant and comforting thought that is!) but not fully constructed bowls of soup. Serving prep, once the broth is ready, and a bowlful is ordered, is easier than easy. It's like this:
  1. Throw brick o' noodles in bowl.
  2. Add beef accoutrements.
  3. Add broth.
  4. Note that Spatch is out there so for some strange, unexplained reason, throw in extra onions and cilantro (at least that's what I think always happens) and serve.
At Pho Hoa, the rare eye round and the noodles were both well and duly cooked by the time the bowl came my way. Good pho places serve the eyeround rare, like shabu shabu, so you have the joy and pleasure of watching that beef cook in the broth. I don't know how I can trust a place that doesn't let me see that. Besides, the already-mushy noodles were also already cut, which felt unnecessary and almost condescending, like having a steak served but cut into bite-sized pieces for me or something. Besides, it's fun to wrap extra-long noodles around your chopsticks.

Oh well. I still maintain I've never had a bad bowl of pho, just bowls that didn't live up to their deliciousness potential, even if the dinner tonight almost made me want to run right over to Pho Vietnam and beg forgiveness for ever straying. Still, what Pho Hoa lacked in cuisine it more than made up for in atmosphere, what with the Bee Gees, the aquariums, and the not-so-tempting color IDs of the beef-like things you may or may not find in your pho (tripe is still narsty, no matter how cheery they try to make it look.) Most nifty of all, however, was the older Caucasian fellow, obviously a regular, who went up to a few waitresses and, with the pride that comes from breaking the language barrier, tried to say "Happy New Year" to them in Vietnamese. They charmingly helped him around a glottal stop he'd missed.