Pho Hoang Vietnamese Restaurant
3388 Main Street
(604) 874 0832
I know many of you are anxiously awaiting the return of the Foodosopher, who no doubt will have many fine reports on his culinary adventures in south east Asia, which he alluded to here in a rare posting. As a prelude to a likely review of some authentic Vietnamese cuisine upon his return, I thought I’d would talk about a recent visit to one of Vancouver’s better known spots serving this country’s food.
Before I begin, I wish to pose a question. Have you ever gone to a restaurant, not one that you routinely frequent so that you’d qualify as a ‘regular’, and end up running into the same people whenever you have gone? This happens to me at Pho Hoang on Main Street. Now over the past I’d say nine months, I’ve been here three times. And on each occasion, granted I am coming in on the same day of the week (Saturday) and usually around the same time (late morning), I have caught the eye of this same trio of people (two men and one woman) who are seated at the same table. On this most recent occasion, I caught the gaze of one of the men, and the look in his eye suggested the same disbelief I was sensing.
Not knowing for sure if they are regulars or if this is just shear coincidence, I just settled into my seat and then tried to recall my two previous meals here. Lemongrass chicken and rice, spring rolls, and pho have all been decent, but not in the amazing category that would make you want to come back frequently (so again, why was that trio here?). My rational mind continued to struggle in figuring out why I was having this Groundhog’s Day experience over and over again.
With an empty stomach and a chill in the air, I settled on having a large bowl of pho with rare beef. Now my memory of the soup here was positive: a light broth, with none of that metallic tasting sensation that I tend to associate with a heavy handed chef shaking his MSG bottle. On this occasion, the noodles were a miss, noticeably overcooked and limp. And this was just after my first mouthful of them, so it was a disappointment knowing that I had gotten the large size and there was much more to go through. I have to wonder, does the person in kitchen know that a larger mass of noodles in the hot water doesn’t mean they have to give it an extraordinary amount of time to cook?
The soup was a touch oilier than I recalled as well, as you can perhaps gleam from the image above. Also, and I can’t remember if it happens regularly, but the bean sprouts that they provided on the side plate were not raw, as they had been blanched slightly making them almost as weak as my noodles. And finally, the slices of raw beef had come clumped together. I really wish they had taken the time to spread them out allowing them to gradually cook evenly in the soup. Now that I had more time to recollect, my previous time eating pho here had been with the well done beef, so I hadn’t noticed this before.
Lastly, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of comments regarding the service here made by others in the online community. Perhaps its due to my limited number of visits and the day/time that they’ve been, but I’ve never had any issues. The server, who’s been the same cheerful woman on each visit, has been quick, polite and responsive when I’ve asked for the final bill. I noticed that the place is fairly spacious and is split almost in two. Maybe sitting on the side where the entrance in the kitchen is, would help in getting more attentive service, especially when its busy and its hard to flag down a waitress – just a suggestion.
If I happen to be in the ‘hood again and have a pho craving, I will probably just stop by again, to see if I run into my same group of “stalkers”. Otherwise, the food alone would not be enough to get me back…