Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pho, pho and more pho...

Pho Hoa, 765 Fort Street, Victoria, BC

"The McDonalds of pho restaurants." -YRS Reader

A staple and mainstay of Vietnamese cuisine, pho is a simple, yet effective noodle dish, which explains its proliferation into the Western restaurant scene over past decades. Victoria is no exception. The choices are many here, especially downtown on Fort and Blanshard streets.

Made with a light fish or beef broth and flat rice noodle, one would think this dish to be foolproof, impossible to screw up. Somehow, Pho Hoa (765 Fort Street) manages to flirt with pho ruination. I've been several times, and have experienced problems almost each time. One time, the broth was cold. During my last visit, the pho noodles in my bowl were uncooked and bunched together like a sticky lock of Uncle Ho's dead grey hair. Unacceptable. My advice to you is to go directly across the street the smaller, Pho Vy. But even more reliable is several blocks east on Fort, Saigon Night, where I've had consistently good food and firendly, efficient service.

While pho is a staple of Vietnam, it's far from representative of true Vietnamese cuisine. When I visited the country a few years ago, everything except the pho was memorable. It's endlessly disappointing to me that I can't find a local Vietnamese eatery showing off more than pho, lemon grass, spring rolls and peanut sauce. To reduce one of the great culinary nations on earth to this single dimension is a great injustice and I wish more Vietnamese restaurateurs would take more chances on their own foods, add some depth and diversity to their menus, offering the range of regional delicacies I recall in my travels from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. For now, it has to be pho, and if you have a craving, avoid Pho Hoa and head for Saigon Night.

Pho Hoa: Just say no.

Pho Hoa on Urbanspoon