Phodown 2.0

January 28th, 2008 · 11 Comments

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Phodown 2.0
a nail in the coffin

Monday January 28th, 2008

By Jason Chin
Eat Vancouver Writer

After awaking to find a frosted over car for the past few days, I couldn’t help but get a very clear message: Winter is here, and she’s not catching her return flight anytime soon. While there’s no way to put and end to that bitch’s icy reign, there is one thing we can do to wait it out. And as you may have guessed from the kick-ass banner, that one thing is a phodown.

Phodown 2.0 has three major goals. Goal, the first: to see if the winners of the original phodown hold up after a year. There’s already some reports that Pho Thai Hoa, last year’s champ, is slipping a bit, so the need for a reevaluation is clearly high. There are also some new contenders out there that may have a chance to dethrone the king. And the third reason is that phodowns are just good things to have. Seriously, who doesn’t like a phodown?

We are going to continue the rating system used by the first phodown, with ratings for broth, meat, noodles, condiments, and service/atmosphere. I found that these categories worked really well last time and there were no complaints from readers, so I assume that the public is generally fine with them. Everything else should be the same, except for the obvious absence of Dan Fishman as the second rater. Desmond Cheung will be taking over, since he has a great deal of pho experience. It will be hard to fill Dan’s shoes, as he was one of the biggest pho-appreciators I have ever known, but I have a lot of faith in Desmond’s pho-Q.

As always, recommendations from readers are highly encouraged. And of course, any feedback, dissenting opinions and general support are great to hear. Pho, as we all know, is the only proven cure for the winter blues.

Tags: Administrative Notes · Pho

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 gish // Jan 29, 2008 at 9:11 am

    YAY!!!! :o)

  • 2 Vangroover // Jan 29, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Vancouver is very unique among Vietnamese diaspora in that it is rather geographically mixed and this influences the pho flavors you get here. In America, most pho joints and Vietnamese enclaves will be dominated by Southern Vietnamese refugees. In France and some other European destinations, Northern Vietnamese dominate. Vancouver is a mixed bag.

    The difference between the pho made in the North and the South are as different as chicken noodle soup and Tom Yum Goong. I’ve had friends from Hanoi who eat pho in the U.S. and tell me they can’t recognize it as pho. And when I ate pho in Hanoi, I thought to myself, oh my god how bland!

    The pho joints I’ve tasted in Vancouver fall along similar lines. What’s tasty and delicious to one faction is heresy to another. Add in the ethnic Chinese/Vietnamese element and you get an absolute cornucopia of pho. Oftentimes, that’s a bad thing.

    As a Southern VNese who grew up in America, what I look for in my pho are: 1) complexity of the broth (i.e., Can you detect the hints of anise and bone marrow?), 2) variety of condiments (Northerners don’t put basil, ngo gai herbs, and bean sprouts into their pho, Southerners have to have it), and 3) variety of meats (How do the flank, raw beef, and tripe mingle with the tendon?)

    This is not to say Southern pho is better their Northern brethren. I grew to appreciate the subtle simplicity of a bowl of Hanoi pho. But my bet is that most of the winners of your phodown will be from the South. Co Do’s cook, for example, is from Hue, technically a Southern city. The worst pho in Vancouver are those where you can taste the Cantonese influence. Try any pho join near Chinatown and you know what I mean.

  • 3 Jason // Jan 29, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    well that definitely fits our data. the sole chinatown pho join we went to happened to be the worst. pho li. beware.

    i actually quite like the northern style as a change of pace. but the southern style is probably my favorite.

  • 4 Dan // Jan 29, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Damn, I am sad I am going to miss this. Maybe I will report on some LA pho.

  • 5 TJ // Feb 3, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Pho Tan at Main and 30th was excellent

  • 6 TJ // Feb 3, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Pho Tan at Main and 30th was excellent

  • 7 Jason // Feb 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    really? we did that for last year’s phodown and i thought it was really bland pho. could have changed, obviously

  • 8 Pat Melsted // Feb 16, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Jason; This is a bit unusual, but it seems like you know your way around good food, so….Do you know anyone who is looking for their own restaurant? We have a beautiful fully equipped restaurant, excellent location on Yellowhead Sask.New 5 bedroom,2 bathroom home behind business.$325000.00 $25000.00 down and make the payments. WE NEED CHINESE FOOD HERE!!! Call Pat @ 306 554-2846

  • 9 TJ // Feb 19, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    I haven’t been yet but I have been hearing good things about Bon Cafe on Main not far from Pho Tan.

    I read your observations about Pho Tan and was surprised indeed, I thought it was comparable to Hai Phong, almost. Maybe its different day to day, chef to chef, year to year I don’t know.

    I still must try Pho Thai Hoa, I just need to set aside some time for the treck.

  • 10 Jason // Feb 23, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Hey TJ,

    Yeah it may have just been an off day for them, but i was not impressed. maybe i will have to try it again.


  • 11 Paul // Mar 31, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    I’m with TJ on this. Pho Tan is the place my friends and I go every weekend. Hardly any MSG (they claim they use none at all) and the propietor is extremely friendly toward repeat customers. Sometimes on busy days, they’re a bit skimpy on the meat, but those are off days. Their curry is great, too.

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