Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pho So 1 Was Not So Good--Pho So 1, Van Nuys

"So tell me what your biggest accomplishment was over the past five years has been?" the interviewer asked.

"Well, I managed to convert a bunch of food hard-heads into much more gastronmically well-rounded people! Now they're eating sushi and Indian food and pho all by themselves!" I replied.

And then I woke up. Damn, it was just a dream.

But it's not unreal per se. Because if I really think about it, that probably was one of my most significant accomplishments during the last five years at my company. Significant to me, that is, because being the corporate cog-in-the-wheel that I am, who really cares about real work anyways?

Soon enough, I'll be leaving this lovely place that's been providing me with a decent paycheck over the last five years, so it's time to reflect. No, not upon my real title as Financial Data and Reporting Whore or My Boss's Bitch but as Food Finder Extraordinaire. How many hours I've spent on-line or driving around researching local Valley restaurants just to get away from the popular Company spots! (Good for gossiping!) And how much time I've spent talking others into trying something new! (C'mon, try Korean food! It's just meat and rice...you'll like it!) So don't call me Manager of Meaningless Numbers Pulled Out Of My Ass. Just call me Asian Persuasion. "Asian" because I'm Asian. (Duh) And "Persuasion" because that's what I do best--I persuade people to go out and try different foods and restaurants.

In the midst of all this reflecting, then, how perfect is it that Ms. Sarah from
The Delicious Life chose the theme of this month's Dine and Dish to be Asian Persuasion?

Only this time, my persuasion led everyone to an Asian restaurant that quite frankly, sucked. I chose Pho So 1 in Van Nuys because its only one of very few Vietnamese restaurants on this side of the Valley and because it's gotten decent reviews on
Chowhound.

"What's for lunch, Pam?"

"Um, you guys wanna go to this place called Pho So 1 in Van Nuys? I heard it's good."

"What's it like?"

"I dunno. It's my first time, but you know, it's just pho--you've been to
Pho 999 with me before. It's just like that. Just noodles and soup."

Some, like my normal luch crew who will go anywhere, didn't even flinch and agreed to go. Others flinched slightly and agreed to go after not being able to think of anywhere else to eat. Some wouldn't budge: "Mmm, nah. Y'know, the last time I went to a pho restaurant, I saw a cockroach running around." "But it was a different restaurant." "Yeah, still." See, Asian Persuasion's work is never done!

After walking into a star-anise scented dining room located in a
99 Ranch shopping center, our request for a table for 9 was met with strange looks, and after a few minutes, we were seated. Our waiter, a thin middle aged Vietnamese gentleman who was obviously a mathematician or The Count from Sesame Street in another life, came by to take our orders.

"OK, you ready?"

My coworker on my right started it up.

"We'll have an order of fried egg rolls, and I'll have a number one."

"OK, one egg roll, one number one? Who else number one?"

"Uh, I'll have a number one," I answered.

"OK, two number one."

"But I don't want cilantro please," I said.

"Two number one no cilantro?"

"No, one no cilantro, the other with everything."

"OK, one number one no cilantro, one number one cilantro."

"Yeah."

He then went counter-clockwise around the table taking orders. After each person's order, he'd go, "OK, number 54. Who else want 54? OK, one number 54." OK, I know you're trying to be thorough, dude, but hurry up, we're hungry!

Then the drinks.

"I'll have a Thai Iced Tea," said one of my coworkers.

"I'll have one too," said another before The Count had the opportunity to ask who else wanted one which I think made him mad. "Two Thai Iced Tea???" he asked. He got to me and I said I wanted a Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Condensed Milk. A flurry of "Oooh, I want one too" responses came from three of my coworkers.

"OK, four Iced Coffee."

"Can I change my Thai Iced Tea to Iced Coffee?" my coworker asked.

"OK, five Iced Coffee. One Thai Iced Tea."

"Can I get an iced coffee too? And an Ice Water?" asked another one of my coworkers.

"Six Iced Coffee. One Thai Iced Tea. How many people want Ice Water?" said The Count.

"Can you just bring ice water for the whole table?" I asked.

"OK, 9 ice water. Six Iced Coffee. One Thai Iced Tea. One Orange Soda. One Lemon Soda. Ten food."

"Ten food???" we asked.

"Yeah, nine order plus one egg roll. Ten."

I expected him to go "Six! Six Iced Coffees! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!" just like The Count. Or maybe I should have recruited this guy as our newest analyst. He obviously loves his analytical skills.


The Count at work

We were a little surprised that a plate of five cha gio (Five! Five fried egg rolls! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!) cost five bucks because they usually cost under three at other places. But because we were craving, we ordered a plate anyways and when it was brought to the table, we realized why they cost five bucks...they were huge! Their ground pork, mushroom and glass noodle filling was tasty, but was overkill on a food that should be delicate and crispy.


Usually "phat" is good; not so much here

For the four of us ordered pho (Four! Four Pho! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!), we were brought only two scrawny plates of veggie condiments. We decided that we were going to ask for more, but only after all the food was brought out--we didn't want any surprises in our food due to too many special requests!


You mean we're supposed to share this???

Disappointing is the best word I can use to describe my bowl of Number One No Cilantro, a.k.a. Pho Dac Biet. The broth lacked depth: not enough beefy flavor but way too much star anise and ginger. I had to add a couple of lime, several slices of green chile and a ton of Thai basil to make it more interesting, which even then, wasn't enough. A huge tangled ball of noodles sat in my bowl of soup and was unevenly cooked, over cooked in some patches and undercooked in others. The quality of meat was questionable, the gelatinous tendon and snappy tripe being the best amongst the bunch, but there were some extra-gristly pieces of brisket and some mystery connective tissue in there that were too tough to even chew. I ate half and that was all I could handle.


One! One big bowl of disappointment! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

By the time I'd finished this half a Pho Dac Biet, my coffee had finished dripping out of the metal Vietnamese coffee press and into the ceramic cup where the condensed milk had been waiting. Very carefully, I poured the coffee-condensed milk mixture into the tall glass of ice provided and stirred it silly. The coffee only filled the glass a little over half full (either that or I'm an optimist, which in this case, I wasn't) and when I took a sip, it was strong as fuck. I had to stir it some more to make the ice melt and dilute this thick, iced concoction; after a few minutes of stirring, it was finally to my liking.


Can this thing drip any slower?

There was a variety of other pho, bun (vermicelli) and com (rice) dishes around the table, none of which I tried. It did look, however, like the concensus about Pho So 1's food was the same all around: mediocre at best. Nine! Nine Disappointing Meals! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

Pho So 1
6450 Sepulveda Blvd. #C & D
Van Nuys, CA 91411
(818) 989-6377

18 comments:

Kirk said...

What a bummer - it wasn't even Pho' So-So, huh? I also don't really care much for a heavy anise or clove flavor in my broth. I thoguht you didn't drink coffee?

Daily Gluttony said...

Nope, Kirk, not even Pho So-So!! LOL! (And notice they had to get that number in the name...still haven't figured that one out yet!)

Re: the coffee thing. I'm not a habitual coffee drinker, so I don't need my morning cup every day. I look at coffee as more of a "treat" like dessert, but b/c I don't have it everyday, sometimes it does tweak me out! And I am usually a sucker for Vietnamese coffee, though this one was WAAAY to strong!

eatdrinknbmerry said...

i like how you didn't pluralize some of the words. haha.

Let me tell you about this one time while eating at my favorite pho restaurant in San Gabriel called Golden Deli.

I decided to be a smart ass and ordered my usual Pho Tai Chin Nam, which is rare steak and brisket. I then said, "i'd like a bick bow', indicating a larger bowl of noodles and broth. The waiter nods. "Ok one bic bow numba nine."

He comes back 7 minutes later with my pho. But it wasn't what i ordered. There were beef balls (bo vien) in there. I said i ordered #9, big bowl!

Get this, he then points at the beef balls and says "yeah! that's what you order. Bic bow!" haha.

BoLA said...

Welcome back Pam! Hahha...wow! This review confirms my disliking of pho. I don't know...haven't had a bowl of Vietnamese noodles that I've liked yet. And I never did like the count...my fave was Cookie Monster! ;)

Daily Gluttony said...

Dylan,

LOL! I kept saying "Bic Bow" to myself and was cracking myself up!!!

Kristy,

My favorite was Grover! =)

elmomonster said...

You speaka my language. Kudos on the Count references...had me ROTF...

Agree with Grover...I actually like him better than my namesake.

Dylan's bic bow anecdote is one for the ages!

Daily Gluttony said...

Elmo,

Grover rules! If only they coulda made a muppet called "Bic Bow" LOL!

Man, if you coulda only seen this guy The Count...we were like "WTF???? Come ON dude, we're hungry!!!"

MEalCentric said...

Great Count reference. I was laughing the entire time.

Peeved Michelle said...

It wasn't a dream! I did eat pho just because of you. Well, because of you and the chronic, "Why don't you ever want to get Vietnamese food?" from my husband. We went to Pho 999 on your recommendation. It was good.

Foodie Universe said...

When I went, I was treated like a whitegirl freakshow. A group of men actually came over to my table and photographed me and my friend with their cell phone camera. I was horrified. At the time I went there, I was a vegetarian, so I got a little screwed since there's nothing veg on the entire menu. Needless to say, I have no desire to go back. Thanh My is my favorite Vietnamese place, but it's in Westminister. Actually, my real favorite is halfway across the country.

Eddie Lin said...

oh, man,

i actually really love pho so 1. i've been to pho 999 and wasn't thrilled. but maybe i should give it another shot.

welcome back kottah!!

Daily Gluttony said...

Mealcentric,

Thanks! When you laughed, did you go "Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah"? LOL!


Michelle,

Pho and chronic? Now that's an interesting combo!

Foodie Universe,

No way! They actually took pictures of you??? Wow, people are freaks, huh? Oh well, just one more reason not to go back to Pho So 1!

Eddie,

C'mon man, I thought you were cool! You like Pho So 1???

Naw, I'm just playing. But I really did have a lousy experience there. Maybe they were having an off day. (One! One off day! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!)

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe how ignant and backwards this review is! You spend more time belittling the poor Vietnamese workers with their bloken Engrish than talking about the food. I cannot believe such blatantly racist remarks came from an Asian girl herself. You seem to wear your Asian-ess more as a badge of pride to brandish in the face of your silly Caucasian friends while still acting superior to other Asians who obviously grew up with much less than the average American. Those middle-aged guys probably lived through the Vietnam War as children. Ever think of that?

As for the food at Pho So 1, I've eaten there for two and a half years and loved every visit. Yes, their service is awful. Often, you're lucky if they get the order right or ever fill your water more than once, but the soup is AMAZING. It is literally the best Pho I have ever had. Most other soups I've had were too onion-y or had waaaay too much fat floating on the top. Pho So 1's broth is great, and most times I have been there, the meat is lean and tender. I highly recommend the rare steak and well-done bowl. They even improved their grade from a 'B' to an 'A' in the last few months, so your early comment about seeing roaches at other places is completely ignorant and shows a deep-seeded prejudice about Asian cultures and cuisine (think cat meat in Chinese food in the 80's and Koreans eating dogs in the Faces of Death video) that need not be propagated in today's world. Shouldn't we Asians try and send a positive message about our cultures and cuisines? Did you ever think that your white friends might be more adventurous about other cuisines if people like you didn't openly give them false reasons to worry? As for Pho So 1, the Chinese Basil is there because you're SUPPOSED to used it to your liking. That's the beauty of the Pho experience, being able to finish your soup the way you like it, and Pho So 1 gives you enough of everything to make yours all your own.

So, maybe you were unlucky and visited Pho So 1 on a bad night, but I have to disagree completely with your conclusion. I love the soup, the egg rolls, teas, iced drinks and chilled desserts there. Your own thinly-veiled "holier than thou" xenophobic underpinnings are sad and offensive to me. I am an Asian (hapa really) raised completely white-bread American in the Southeast, and have loved discovering my Asian roots and the many amazing cultural aspects here in LA. It's short-sighted, knee-jerk reactions and racist remarks like yours that make me ashamed of being Asian.

Daily Gluttony said...

Anonymous,

I am sorry that you disagreed with my review. But in my opinion, I don't think it was racist at all. I think many of you miss the whole point of a food blog--all of us food bloggers are here to document and share our experiences. That was my experience, and that's the end of it. Some people have good ones, some people have bad ones, and mine just happened to be a bad one. And I also just happened to write about it openly and honestly.

Never did I say anything hateful or derogatory about the Vietnamese culture or Asian people for that matter. Just because I happened to poke fun at our waiter's ramblings had nothing to do his ethnicity--he could have been black, brown, white or purple and it still would have been funny. Have you lost your sense of humor? Oh wait, no, I sense the phrase "bloken Engrish" in your comment. Now, I ask you: was THAT really necessary??? Or do we just chill out and see things for what they are?

While we're on the subject, I think that "shortsighted" is the fact that you took this one review out of the slew of reviews I've done so out of context that you have to accuse me of being ignorant and offensive to Vietnamese and Asian people. Hmm, let's see, have you bothered to read the rest of my blog? Did you bother to see that I gave several other Vietnamese and Asian restaurants glowing remarks?

Also, if you bothered to read my post more thoroughly, you may have noticed that I never once made a correlation between Asian restaurants and cockroaches! First of all, it was an isolated incident NOT experienced by myself, but by a coworkwer. Second of all, if you care to read a little more carefully, I was the one who said "BUT-IT'S-A-DIFFERENT-RESTAURANT". Thirdly, would you rather me not document my actual experience and instead present some sugar coated story? Again, missing the point of a food blog!

I'm glad you're happy with Pho So 1, and I'm sure they're happy that you're happy. But it's a free country and I don't have to like it. And I don't appreciate you calling me racist just because I don't.

Anonymous said...

To the daily gluttony writter who wrote about her experience at Pho So 1 on Sepulveda and Victory.

This was one isolated experience that you had. I encourage you and your friends to give this restaurant one more try. You may find you can have an enjoyable experience there the second time around.

Just a few comments about some of the things you mentioned in your review...

Your waiter repeats everything and the quantities to ensure that he get your order right, given that his english skills were probably not as strong as yours.

I know that egg rolls are generally known to be a delicate appetizer, but not in this case, and not at this restaurant. It is listed on the menu as an entree, so they assume that you are having this as your meal. Therefore the eggrolls are made bigger in hopes of filling you up.

Veggie Condiments - waiters will generally bring you more when you ask for more. Kinda like when some asks for more dressing for their salad or ranch for their fries.

The bowl of Pho that you received should have had really hot broth. The broth is usually hot enough to cook the thin slices of rare beef that you push to the bottom and the noodles that you mix in the bowl.

Vietnamese coffee is usually made very strong. It is part of the beauty of it. Think of how strong Lebanese or Armenian or Russian coffee is. It is kind of like that.

This restaurant is actually pretty pleasant and affordable. And the dishes are actually quite appetizing.

There is also another Pho So 1 location on Reseda and Sherman Way that you may want to try.

I reccommend you try a few other dishes.

Fair warning - some of the dishes come with a fish sauce that may smell a little funny to those that have never been exposed to it. But it tastes really good.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with the anonymous comment posted. This review was WAY TOO personal. FOUR PHO! That is NOT funny and yes, it is offensive. Maybe you don't see that you made any racial comments but your review contained a lot of comments that perpetuate many Asian stereotypes onto other people who read it. It disturbs me from reading the other comments posted because it seemed that just based on your review alone, you have pretty much put it so that it's OK for people to make fun of hard working people who happen to have an accent.I can understand that this is your own experience at this restaurant but keep the review to the food and not the cultural differences. I do not think it's humor people lack...it's education and tact.

Anonymous said...

stick to the data, whore...leave food reviews to people who can write non-offensively...hahahahah...

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