Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pho Hoa

In the holy interest of trying new things and following recommendations, Gavin and I found ourselves at Pho Hoa on Pasteur Street, proclaimed by many local city dwellers as "The Best Pho in Saigon."  Eager to check it out, we chose it for a late lunch sometime last week.

We couldn't help but admire the decor for a moment before ordering.  Highlights included a massive freshwater fish tank that spanned the majority of a wall.  The colorful carp were enormous and entirely aggressive; thus, we watched large alpha-fish gobbling down their smaller tank mates.  I wasn't aware that goldfish were such voracious carnivores.

This old, dusty, moth-eaten water buffalo had a quiet charisma and turned out to be quite photogenic.  Between the fish tank, the proud ruminant, and numerous paintings of pagodas, Pho Hoa imbues a very East meets Wild West feel.  Sort of like that hackneyed film starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson's nose that mysteriously captivated worldwide audiences.

The first offering that sets this spot apart from the crowd is the fried breads, bananas, and mountain of greens that greets you upon sitting down.  Each table comes with stacks of thin, fried bread and some soft, flaky rolls which can be used to sop up the remaining broth from your meal.

There are massive offerings of artfully stacked limes and chili peppers.

Also, there is a verdant hill in the middle of each table with your greens: lemon grass, mint and basil.

I ordered Pho Bo Nam (well-done flank) and was surprised by the mass of meat and rice noodles delivered to me.  Generally, meat portions are kept conservative in Vietnam, but this isn't your average soup joint.

Per norm, I doctored my bowl up with boiled bean sprouts, greens, chili sauce, lime and hot peppers.  I grabbed the requisite utensils and commenced the feed.
I am not the biggest meat-eater of late, so it was arduous to gnaw through the thick slices of fatty flank.  Luckily, Gavin is an unabashed scavenger so waste was minimal.  The noodles were firm and abundant, but something in my broth flavor was missing.  Maybe it was just the massive tub-sized bowl that took too much of my energy to season properly.  We can chalk that one up to user error.  I know I will return, but next time I will opt for the vegetarian bowl.  Also, the bread was novel and tasty, but did it leave me too full? 

While I was impressed, I beg to differ about Pho Hoa's unofficial title.  Although I have yet to find the best Pho in Saigon, I'm still searching.  So, this fine eatery will kindly be remembered as "The Second Best Pho Restaurant in Saigon".

1 comment:

Greg said...

I'm reading your post before breakfast and it is inducing much hunger.