Saturday, July 11, 2009

A So-so Soupy Afternoon

Rainy days are here again! Yeah I know it’s been here since last month. But the torrential downpour of last week made me crave for a bowl of noodle soup. There’s nothing like the feel of an almost scalding hot soup on your tongue with perfectly cooked noodles slithering nicely down your throat until it reaches your tummy where it finally warms you up.
After having this kind of single-minded thought for days I almost dragged Mamu to the most convenient mall near our place (SM City North Edsa). With all the options available I chose Pho Hoa Vietnamese Noodle House because I always enjoyed their Pho Beef Noodle Soup. The soup was beefy, herby, light and refreshing, the glass noodles cooked just right, not gummy at all with generous slices of beef, meatballs and tendon.
Upon approaching the restaurant, Mamu noticed that only one table was occupied. I was quick to assure her that we both have been to Pho Hoa countless times (mostly at Robinson’s Place and SM Manila) and their Pho Beef Noodle Soup is great.
We ordered the Goi Cuon (fresh spring roll), Pho Nam, Chin, Gan, Bo Bien Pho (flank, brisket, tendon and meatballs) and Chay Dau Hu (tofu and assorted mushroom with rice). The waiter informed us that they were out of meatballs so they’ll just replace it with more beef. Being a carnivore at heart I didn’t at all mind but Mamu was kind of disappointed because she likes those Vietnamese meatballs.
I was a bit surprised when the fresh spring rolls arrived, from what I remember it seems to have gotten smaller and there wasn’t a shrimp in sight. I thought to myself maybe the recession was starting to set in. I took a bite and it tasted like a watered down version of the spring rolls I used to enjoy. Apart from the disappearance of the shrimps, there was too much sotanghon (I don’t know what they call this type of noodles in Vietnamese) which I think wasn’t soaked long enough because it tasted a bit raw thus overpowering everything. The only saving grace of this dish was the sauce, which tasted as good as I remember, sweetish (because of the hoisin) and nutty.
I almost clapped my hands when the Pho Noodle Soup was served. It was still huge, the small bowl was more than enough for Mamu and me. Hot and steaming, just the way I like it with beef, tendon, cilantro and scallions swimming all around. I almost closed my eyes as I took a sip of the soup, there’s something wrong, I took another sip this times with eyes open, it just tasted different. The pho always had this light and refreshing quality to it which was lacking in the soup. I tried adding a squeeze of lemon plus the usual condiments (bean sprout, chili pepper and mint) to no avail. There’s just something different with the soup which I can’t put my finger (or taste buds) on.
By this time I’m starting to realize why this particular Pho Hoa outlet was completely empty.
Thank goodness the Tofu and Assorted Mushroom with Rice arrived! I’ve never tried this dish before and neither has Mamu, we only ordered it because she wanted something with rice that was totally healthy because of her doctor’s appointment in a few days. The serving was big, again more than enough for two people, the mushrooms were cooked just right, not watery or dry at all and the tofu was soft and silky. We both enjoyed this dish, tasty and healthy, what more could we ask for?
Mamu and I were quite disappointed with our Pho Hoa experience. Out of the three dishes that we ordered, we only enjoyed the tofu and mushroom. Worth coming back you ask? Maybe…
Too bad because Pho Hoa is my first experience with Vietnamese food and it made quite a good impression on me. I wonder what happened to the quality of food at Pho Hoa, it seems to have deteriorated over the years.

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