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January 3rd, 2006


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01:57 am - 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.

(17 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:derspatchel
Date:January 3rd, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC)
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Good times.
Great oldies.
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From:jackbishop
Date:January 3rd, 2006 09:16 am (UTC)
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Good pho places serve the eyeround rare

Raw, actually. Tái should be added to the soup raw and served promptly. There's no health risk at all in doing so if they slice the beef thin enough and serve the soup hot enough, both of which are sort of fundamental to getting it right, so if they cook it first they're either complete wusses or not actually competant.

Man, now I want some phơ. Too late to get any out here, though.
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From:annilita
Date:January 3rd, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
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Or they weren't doing it right and the health department fined them and they just gave up and went the easy way.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:January 3rd, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)
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Massachusetts got real paranoid about raw food a few years ago. There's disclaimers at the bottom of every menu warning you that eating raw and undercooked food may be bad for you, and dishes containing raw/undercooked ingredients must also be denoted as such in their listing. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the places around here rarify their eyeround just to keep the city off their backs.

That said, slightly rarified != fully cooked, that's for sure.
[User Picture]
From:antikythera
Date:January 3rd, 2006 05:35 pm (UTC)
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Heh. This reminds me that I was trying to work out which rules are being flouted by Korean restaurants in Toronto, in terms of the eggs in the bi bim bap. I thought it was supposed to be a raw egg, and it would be cooked when you mix it all up in the stone bowl. but they always seem to use a sunny-side-up fried egg (the white is cooked on both sides already but the yolk is soft).

The funny thing is, most restaurants that serve eggs for breakfast will tell you they're not allowed to do sunny-side-up anymore for health reasons. It has to be scrambled, cooked hard, or broken.

(*introductory wave* I'm one of audioboy's friends. Go pester him to play Diablo II if neither of you is doing anything important. ^^ I'm his usual sidekick, but I'm dead in the water without a Windows machine at home.)
From:mhaille
Date:January 3rd, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC)
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Eh, I still get runny eggs even if I ask for over medium.
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From:annilita
Date:January 3rd, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
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The last time I was at our new Thai place there was a guy there eating who had spent time in China as a reporter and kept trying to speak to them in Chinese.

Uh, THAI, sir, THAI!
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From:zmook
Date:January 3rd, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
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I think the Bee Gees was an attempt on their part to provide an experience more like what you would get in actual Vietnam. When I was there, the preferred soundtrack was the Boney M Christmas album. Mad about the Boney M, those dudes.
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From:jackbishop
Date:January 4th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC)
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Boney M is twistedly popular an awful lot of places. Pretty much everywhere except America, it sometimes seems. Surprisingly, this fact has yet to appear in any right-wing manifesto as evidence of the superiority of Americans. I'd think it'd be a pretty good one.
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From:piemancer
Date:January 3rd, 2006 04:01 pm (UTC)
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I can relate to how it feels to stray. I'm a regular at Emacia's Pho of Aurora (her motto is "We're a restaurant! On Aurora! That's why we call ourselves Pho of Aurora!"), but i strayed to eat at Pho Kim.

Really, i just wanted to say to my friend, "Hey, ya wanna go to Pho Kim with me?"

Mm. That broth was rrrrrrrrrrrrright out of the can, man. O, Emacia! Why did i ever stray! I'll see you tonight, o kind Emacia!
[User Picture]
From:bostonista
Date:January 3rd, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC)
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Vaguely related question: So, is Pho Vietnam better than Pho Pasteur?
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From:derspatchel
Date:January 3rd, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC)
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I tend to think so. I don't have anything against Pho Pasteur, not by a long shot, and will gladly eat there when I'm in Harvard Square. But if I'm in Chinatown, I'll go directly to Pho Vietnam. The soup itself has a different flavor to it, more fragrantly spiced, and the beef always tastes better.
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From:bostonista
Date:January 3rd, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC)
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I'll have to try it, then. Thanks.
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From:derspatchel
Date:January 3rd, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Let me know what you think! Especially if you get to watch the guy behind the counter joke around with the regulars coming in for their takeout orders.
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From:terras
Date:January 3rd, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC)
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FWIW, When I was in Pho Pasteur last week I noticed that they're changing their name to (drum roll...) Le's Vietnamese Restaurant. For the life of me, I cannot figure what was wrong with Pho Pasteur as the name of a restaurant. Heck, they even covered the health angle by including Pasteur in the name.
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From:derspatchel
Date:January 3rd, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that's crazy. Citysearch has already gone and noted the name change, but nobody else has. Though Google tells me Duyen Le was sued by the Labor Dept in 2004 on charges of not paying overtime (eventually agreeing to pay over $200K in back wages) and that the Washington St. Pho Pasteur in Chinatown (the second Pho Pasteur) was sold in 1994 to a childhood friend of Le's. I wonder if that had anything to do with the name change.
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From:mschlock
Date:January 3rd, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
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Pho Hoa is the McDonald's of pho (it's a chain, anyway).

It's not terrible, but that sounds worse than the one here. (When you get the beef here it is at least sort of pink when you get it.)

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