The first impression was a great one. The decor, paintings and atmosphere were all very welcoming. The place was fairly busy - always a good sign. It appeared we might not get a table for 5, but the host took down a “reserved” sign at one of the largest tables, and seated us.
By now, we can order by number from almost any Pho menu on Somerset without looking. Here, we all curiously read every page - wondering… do they have Pho? Near the back, eureka! There was a selection of various types of Pho. We were all fairly safe, ordering our “usual”. Except for JJ, he took a leap of faith and ordered a specific regional dish. More on that later.
The waiteress brings water for everyone. Nice touch. We take in the Vietnamese decor and glance at other tables to see what the “regulars” are eating. The waiteress comes back to take our order. We are used to writing down our own menu selection, by number of course. Not here. She asks in no particular order, for our meal selection. Without a pad or pen, she quietly listens to all of our questions and choices. We all order Pho - selection of egg and rice noodles, beef, porc, shrimp, vermicelli and this “regional” dish (I forget the name). With also order some vegetarian spring rolls. Then, just as every waiteress likes to hear, last minute changes. She doesn’t blink - but we wonder if this was too much to ask for.
We wait… Then, our spring rolls arrive. The whole table marvels at the size of the carrot juice bowl. It’s huge! We all stare in amazement at how anyone would need such a large bowl for dipping a spring roll. It becomes clear when we each take a sample from the main dish and pour into our own dish. Finally, double-dipping will not be frowned upon! The usual side veggies make for good wraps for the rolls. In particular, the minty leaves. They were good, but not spectacular. I then taste the hot sauce and wonder if it’s been diluted - whoa! NOT! After a few deep breathes, I take note not to over do it with the Pho. My neighbour, a fan of hot food, takes some of the chili sauces and pours some into his Pho - without even a taste.
This time, I did not fill my soup with the usual veggies and squirt of lime, I choose to taste the soup as-is, with some hot sauce (not too much) and some hoisin sauce. My soup had egg noodles, porc and fresh shrimp. By far, the shrimps were the best part of the soup. The noodles tasted a bit off but the broth was very good. I tell myself, and ask my colleagues to remind, next time - try the vermicelli (dry Pho). The last impression came with the menu fully written in Vietnamese. No ordering by numbers here!
Oh yeah, the regional dish - it makes your lips green :-)
by Michel Devost