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Slowly Getting Better! Pho Real!

When you have a bit of a cold, there’s nothing like drowning yourself in a giant bucket of pho. So that’s exactly what we did. Before catching a film festival flick and getting a parking ticket a 9 PM on a Sunday (up yours PPA), Washington Ave was to be the street of choice. And Pho & Cafe Viet Huong was the pho place of choice.
H/A got some strange rainbow ice drink. I wouldn’t exactly call it a drink. There’s very little drink, and much more chunky stuff. There’s sweet red beans, shreds of green jello, yellow mung bean, and coconut milk. I don’t think this is a drink for me.

Got some rolls (Goi Cuon), as tradition always calls for it. They were pretty good, but there were tons of mint in. I like a tiny bit sometimes, but this may have been a bit too much for me. Don’t get me wrong, still good.

H/A went with the pork chops on broken rice (Com Tam Suon Nuong). Holy crap, this was good. I’m totally ordering this the next time. Screw the pho, now I’m all about vietnamese pork chops!

But no complaints about the pho here. I got beef eye round and well done flank. After throwing in the entire pile of sprouts and the requisite sriracha, it was just what the doctor ordered. Although it was pretty ginormous and I did not finish it. Damn you sickness and my diminished appetite!

The service? It’s not so great here. The place is huge and run like a cold machine. You get your food real fast, but they don’t really follow up or check on you. Then you go up front and pay. Attentiveness is not their strong suit. But that’s ok, because they’re food is good.

Pho & Cafe Viet Huong
1110 Washington Ave # 2A
Philadelphia, PA
Pho & Cafe Viet Huong on Urbanspoon

The Vietnam (Restaurant) War

If you’ve ever been on a particular block of 11th Street in Chinatown, you know of the two rival vietnamese restaurants located across the street from each other. On the east side is Vietnam Restaurant, which had a facelift in the late 90’s to become very cute and swanky. Before the renovations, it was quite a dive. On the west side is Vietnam Palace. Now I heard a rumor that they are run by family members who had a falling out and decided to compete against each other. Whatever the reason may be, I’m always up for vietnamese food. It’s so one of my favorites.

I’ve been to Vietnam Restaurant probably half a dozen times, pre-renovation and post. I love it there. This was my first time at Vietnam Palace. I’ve heard good and bad things about it. In the same way I’ve heard good and bad things about Vietnam Restaurant. But I was definitely excited to check it out. We had a large party, and the upstairs, where they put us, was actually quite perfect for this. There was noone else there so we could actually talk and hear ourselves.

I had the broken rice combo, which came with chicken, beef, and shrimp. I certainly liked it. The beef was particularly good. And I have an extreme weakness for the pickled daikon and carrots that you always get with this dish. At Vietnam Palace it’s not julienned, but just sliced into big pieces. That was especially delightful. MF got the bun (vermicelli) with pork and a fried spring roll. It looked damn good. She liked it. She also got an avocado milk shake, which did indeed look like a shamrock shake. She liked that too.

C had never eaten vietnamese food before, and that was in part why we ended up here. To right that wrong. He got the pho bo kho, which is a spicy beef stew noodle soup. He seemed to enjoy it. We were also mighty impressed by his use of the chopsticks for most of the bowl. He didn’t resort to the spoon until nearly the very end (he picked up the spoon early on just for the picture below). Nice job C. He was also quite proud of his recent haircut. And in light of being part of his first vietnamese food experience, I promised to include his haircut in my blog. There he is ladies and gents, the first full back-of-the-noggin that has ever graced this here blog. And a big shout out to supercuts.

There were some other broken rice dishes, some more noodle dishes, some tea that tasted like root, papaya salad, crappy merlot, and on and on. In general, everyone enjoyed their meal. I can’t say that I like it better than Vietnam Restaurant. But I did definitely like Vietnam Palace. I think they’re quite different. Perhaps not in food, but in design and ambiance, and a little attitude. Different strokes for different folks.
Vietnam Palace on Urbanspoon

My Love Pho You

On Saturday, I did alot of walking. The 16th Philadelphia Film Festival was going on (and still is), and so I wanted to catch at least one flick, but had to go to the Kimmel Center by 8PM. A colleague had laid some free tix to Art Garfunkel on me earlier in the week. He’s not my scene, but I knew my mom would be into him, so I took her. It’d been her first time to the Kimmel and let me tell you, for those of you that haven’t been there, go! It’s a beautiful building, on the outside and the inside. And the large hall is even more gorgeous and has the most amazing acoustics you’ve ever heard. It’s a totally beauteous place.

While hauling my butt 13 blocks to get from 2nd to Broad, I had to stop in for a quick bite. And on my way, of course, was Chinatown. This is a girl that never gives up a chance to stop in Chinatown. If you remember, Saturday was freakin cold. And after walking all those blocks, I decided that pho would be my meal of choice. So I stopped at Pho Cali, again.

Do you remember the first time you had pho? I do. It was the summer after my freshman year of college in Cleveland. I was staying that summer at a fraternity house (yeah, hilarious, I know). That’s ok, it wasn’t a real fraternity, it was the nerd fraternity. One of the people staying there that summer had a car, and he was going to go drive and eat Vietnamese food. Vietnamese food? What’s that, I thought! I had no idea. I’d never had it before. So we trekked to the west side of town to a tiny Vietnamese place. I didn’t remember what it was called, but I just googled it and it is called Minh-Anh. Gosh. So it’s good to know it’s still there.

So this guy also gushed about this thing called “cinnamon soup”. Yes, cinnamon soup. That absolutely sounds gross now that I think about it, but at the time, it sounded fascinating. And I had to have it. It was actually pho he was talking about, and I loved it! And from then on, I’ve been hooked. At Minh-Anh, you didn’t get the giant bowls that the chain pho places typically serve. You got a tiny mini bowl and you treasured every flavorful spoonful of broth and every crunchy sprout. Mmmm…. I also had my first goi cuan (fresh summer rolls) there, and also my first bun (rice vermicelli bowl). Now that I think about it, I realize how much Minh-Anh has affected my eating life. Thank you!

When you order pho, you basically need to know what type of meat you want in it. I typically just go for brisket. You also can choose flank, steak, tripe, tendon, meatballs, or any combination of the above. It comes out in a bowl with rice noodles, the soup, your meat(s) of choice, onions, green onions, and cilantro. Immediately after you order pho, before you even get your pho, they bring you a plate full of mung bean sprouts, some sliced jalapenos, some lime wedges, and some basil. And at every table, you always have sriracha sauce (the spicy sauce), hoisin, and garlic chili sauce. And you put any of these ingredients into your pho. Then you shovel and enjoy! For me, I stick in all the sprouts and some sriracha. That’s it for me, I’m a simple pho kinda girl. I also ordered a limeade. So so good!

Oh yeah, by the way, after the Kimmel, I made my mom take me to capogiro. And I also forgot to say that after that night at Penang, I also stopped at capogiro. Hilarious. Ladies and gents, my addiction is fully raging.

Pho Cali Vietnamese Restaurant
1000 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 629-1888
Pho Cali on Urbanspoon

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