Friday, May 23, 2008

Pho Tu Do

I was on Serious Eats today and saw the forum post, "What is pho?" (pronounced 'fuh'). I checked it out and it intrigued me. It turns out that pho is a vietnamese beef soup with rice noodles. It has become very popular and there are whole restaurants devoted to the dish and its variations. I checked google and found some restaurants with pho, a few with strange names like, "What the Pho" and "Pho Shizzle" (I also found that What the Pho had broken several health violations). I then looked for some restaurants in Manhattan and found that the best reviewed one is "Pho Tu Do". I simply had to try it out, so when my mom came home, I somehow convinced her to go (the lamb in our fridge had to wait!). We met my dad in the city and found the restaurant.

If you see the restaurant from the outside, or even the inside for that matter, you would be skeptical why anybody would come from out of the city to eat there. It seems like any old asian restaurant and christmas ornaments hang from the ceiling like stalactites. We browse the menu and end up ordering a summer roll (shrimp wrapped in cellophane) and a "noodle" which is quite obviously not a noodle (it's like 4 large and greasy ravioli) for appetizers. I got a coconut for a drink, and I must say, it was delicious. I originally wanted the salty lemonade, but the waiter advised me not to. I couldn't understand why because he couldn't speak English well. I wasn't disappointed with the coconut, though. After I was done with the juice, I could mine out slivers of coconut meat from the inside and fish them through the opening in the top. I don't know why, but I enjoy slowly working at pieces of food to retrieve small rewards, like squeezing out the meat from lobster legs. The appetizers were pretty interesting, and I enjoyed the texture of the summer roll. Nothing amazing yet, though. Then we got pho (a 'special big bowl' as they put it on the menu), shrimp that we cooked ourselves on a small grill, and spicy shrimp soup with a coconut broth. The pho surprised all of us, having a deep and soul-warming flavor, slices of beef that pulled apart easily and gave an almost sensual taste, rice noodles that you slowly slurped into your mouth. It was as if it slapped us in the face and yelled at us for eating any other food. The shrimp was tender and delicious, but I was a bit disappointed that I had to shell them myself. When I had finally gotten to the spicy shrimp soup, I was so full, but I had to try the last dish. It had an immense curry flavor and changed in your mouth from mild to intense. It was also very spicy, but my coconut juice was out. I drank the rest of my water and reluctantly stopped eating the spicy soup. We asked for the check and I started spooning the remains of the pho into my mouth. We paid, then slowly rose, as Ken Kesey put it, like fat cats full of milk. We took our toothpicks, then strolled out of the restaurant like it was all a glorious dream. I wanted to visit the nearby "Double Crispy Bakery", but I was warned that Chinese dessert wasn't very good. Next time...

The food was amazing, the price was low, and the waiter seemed nice. My only complaints were he didn't speak English well and the atmosphere wasn't perfect. Other than that I can't see any reason NOT to go to this restaurant. If you live in New York State, make your next dinner one at Pho Tu Do.

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