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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Phở Hòa: Kind of blah...

Lunch date #11: April 6, 2012

We knew we were going to have to get there eventually—might as well go for it…it was time for phở! This seems to be an up and coming popular food, with new places springing up all over town. Phở (rhymes with "the"), of course is the style of a Vietnamese broth with noodles, typically served with a choice of cooked meat, and topped with bean sprouts and a bit of green onion. Since we were trying to be true to our goal to sample all of what downtown has to offer, we elected to hit the south end of Main St. and try Phở Hòa (201 Main St, next to Vic's).  As per Google-Translator: Hòa means flower or blossom, and is pronounced "wha". Steph gets phở all of the time. She extols its many benefits: that it is somewhat healthy and usually pretty cheap top the list. As I had reported in our introductory blog, Mom had tried phở with Steph at Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant on the north end of downtown. She didn't remember too much about it, other than that it was just "OK" and that she didn't particularly want to have it again! But this is the "New Mom"…ready to try any and everything…so with her chopstick adapters in hand, we headed to Phở Hòa for an adventure.
Critique #1 location: 4 points. We have realized we are in trouble with our scores in this area. We gave Vic's a 5, even though it is on the far south end of Main Street. Since we aim for reliable consistency in our reviews, we need to be fair. But this place does not face Main St., so we justified a 4. In retrospect, we should have scored Vic's a 4, and then this place a 3. There is a good amount of parking, which is an advantage.

Critique #2 ambiance: 1 point. Wow are we tough or what! I don't know—maybe it was the large plastic palm trees (!), but the place is pretty tacky: acoustic tile ceiling, Formica stained tables, cheap linoleum flooring. Mom's sums it up well: "Reminds me of a cafeteria". You get the idea. When I described it to Steph, she said not to be so critical: "It's like Vietnamese fast-food," she explained. Now, I get the idea!

Critique #3 Menu: 4 points. We have absolutely no idea how to read this menu. There are a lot of items, with (thankfully) pictures. We elected to award 4 points due to variety. You can choose from many types of phở, to rice plates, vermicelli bowls (is that kind of an Italian fusion thing??), and even fruit smoothies. I went with #1—trying to select their signature dish: Phở Tái: noodle soup with thinly sliced beef. Mom, being somewhat "over" phở, chose the Bún Gà Nưóng: A vermicelli bowl of grilled chicken over noodles.
 Phở Tái:

Critique #4 service: 2 points. We definitely had a language barrier issue here. We tried to nicely explain that we were neophytes in the world of phở, but we didn't get much help. The food was brought out amazingly fast (must be all pre-cooked and ready to plate out), but just rather deposited on our table and that was about it for service. Mom ordered coffee—it was a sort of French-press style, but without the press part…guessing that is Vietnamese coffee? We had no clue, and got no help. Mom said that at a place like this, they don't usually have coffee. My reply: "For good reason!" The tea was barely warm and not all that great. Regarding the phở: when the server later cleared the dishes, he told me that I should have added the bean sprouts to the broth right away—so they would soften. Kinda late for that, I thought. Good thing Mom brought her own little chopstick adapters…don't suppose she would have gotten those there.
Vietnamese coffee??

Critique #5 food: 2.5 points. The vermicelli was dry. It was served with a side of broth, that I suppose was to be added, but the broth was cold. Mine was fair: the beef was thin and tender. Not served bite-size…not quite sure how to cut Asian food, since all I had were chopsticks. As we were clueless, we didn't realize that we were supposed to "doctor" up the broth/noodles with the selection of condiments on the table: they have plum sauce, chili sauce and some other things I could not identify. Steph later told us that seasoning the broth to taste makes a big difference! She also later told me that I should have stirred up the noodles right away—or they coalesce into a lump…she was right, they did! Guess I should have gotten the "how to" advice before we went!
The chopstick adapters in use!

Critique #6 value: 3 points. The prices were fine: $8 for the Vermicelli bowl, about $7 for the phở, but since we didn't really care for anything all that much—we regarded the value as medium…inexpensive, but unimpressive. Also, there was nothing to take home. I know they do take-out, but this just wasn't a left over sort of thing…not that we'd really want to eat it again anyway.

Overall score for Phở Hòa: 2.8 points. Certainly not all that great. Not horrible. Perhaps we would do better now that we know what to do…or better yet, take Steph along for on the spot phở eating instructions!

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