Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pho Ha

610 Washington Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 599-0264

So before I go any further, I want to take a moment to remind any loyal readers, and to inform any new readers, that I hate Pho. I have had it at least a dozen times, and I have never been impressed. Everyone rants and raves about how amazing it is, and in my opinion, its just a bowl of under-seasoned broth with some scraps of meat tossed in, served with a side of bean sprouts and basil. The apparent allure is adding in your own ingredients to make the giant bowl of hot water (and cheap cuts of unseasoned meat) palatable. It’s as though no one had ever had a good bowl of ramen, or Tom Yum, or soft tofu, all of which deserve the cult status of Pho, yet are overlooked in favor of their mediocre Vietnamese counterpart.

That all being said, I hadn’t given it another try in almost a year, so I thought that perhaps on this trip, I would find the missing piece to begin to love this dish. Pho Ha came highly recommended, so I made a trip over.

When you walk into Pho Ha, you will stand around awkwardly until you are whisked away to a table.

Upon arrival at your table, you will be expected to know what you are ordering when you sit down. If not, a non-plussed waiter will stand over you rolling his eyes and awaiting your decision. For the love of God, DO NOT ask for a few minutes to look over the menu.

A large bowl of pho is almost comically large, and at the low low price of $6.60 you will wonder how they do it. Until you see the meat.

I ordered a combo (#45) featuring brisket, flank, tendon, fatty & crunchy flank. Lots of meat. All of it looked the same shade of grey, and for the most part it all tasted the same. The tendon got lost in the giant chopstick pinches of noodles. I used about everything I could find on the table to bring some life to this broth boat, but it was still as mediocre as I had remembered. There is just no level of care put into this dish (not hard to believe when it is served in under a minute and a half).

I brought along some spicy beer to match what I was expecting to be an explosion of flavor.

I am a sucker for some summer rolls, so I grabbed an order of them as well. They were fine. Probably my favorite part of the meal - and still hitting pretty low.

I also ordered the "Com Bi, Cha, Suon Nuong" or julienne pork rice plate.

The platter was another reasonably priced value at $6.60 and literally came out as a pile of indiscernible foods.

Although the pork was well seasoned – it was glossed with a sort of sweet and sour glaze – and had a nice charred flavor, it was decidedly not julienned.

There was some sort of eggy-pate-glass noodle thing that tasted earthy - and when I say "earthy," I mean to say it tasted sort of like dirt.

This tomato was buried under the pate. If your tomato looks more white than red, don't serve it at all.

So I admit I am not a huge pho fan. In reality, I would rather eat about anywhere else than at a pho place. If you love it, feel free to disagree. If you have never been, please go and decide for yourself. As for me, I know which soups are the real deal, and I will continue championing their consumption. You can keep the pho.


Anonymous said...

More like Blo Ha!

Ellen Ival said...

Feeling's mutual. I'd rather eat Maruchan's cheddar cheese flavor instant lunch noodle cups than choke down Pho.

Sherm said...

I definitely do not claim to be an authority on Pho - I've actually only had it once - but I found it to be deeply flavorful and satisfying. The broth (which was quite a few shades darker than yours) was rich and savory, signifying a long low simmer under the watchful eye of an expert. The meat definitely wasn't the main attraction, but mine (cheap cuts, tendons, tripe) was tender and delicious. It was at Pho Saigon, btw.

Anonymous said...

I am big Pho fan and I think this place was best of philly. I disagree with that. There are alot of better places to get Pho, but I dont think there is a place that will change your mind.

Pauline said...

The English translation for your rice dish is off. The julienned pork portion of your dish is the mixture of shredded pork, pork skin and ground rice powder that is sitting next to your pork chop and on top of the tomato. The "cha" is kinda like a viet quiche and it usually never turns out good a restaurant.

Pho Ha mainly does pho though, so I would never get a rice dish here.

playonplaya said...

This is the thing... Ur dumb!!! Love ur blog and remembered u talking bad about pho earlier. I dont get it, r u just mad that it gets overhyped? I mean, what would u rather was there serving filling everyday six dollar meals to the people? Mcdonalds? Cmonnnn mannn

geemtriste said...

Hahaha... pho's not for everyone (my brother hates it; the rest of the siblings love it) and gristly is DEFINITELY an acquired texture.

That said, I applaud that you still try to see if your palate changed :)

Anonymous said...

playonplaya - grammar is not your friend.

Anonymous said...

thank you! I have also been wondering what the big deal with Pho is. and i love when "pho purists" suddenly know how to speak vietnamese when they pronounce Pho (fuh). puhleeeeze!