Phở Tân

Once upon a time, there was a cool, house-shaped restaurant in Burnaby called Phở Saigon. As I mentioned in that post, it was my very first bowl of phở. They, through a variety of owners, put out a very good product. For a while there, I was visiting two, three and sometimes four times a week. A few months back they shut down and re-opened as Phở Tân.

I’m just going to go ahead and assume this is an off-shoot of Phở Tân at Main & 30th that a small section of the local blogosphere has written about. Based on those posts, I figured I was in for some great grub.

They’d really spiffed things up. New furniture, a lick o’ paint, a few new plants. Really an all round, clean and comfortable space.

The service is friendly and attentive. A lady is busy shining up the glass on the entrance door. She notices my camera and suddenly the owner drops by for a chat. He asks what kind of camera I have, chats a bit about a camera he used to have then wanders off. If you’re in this situation, you may figure they’d take notice and bring out the good stuff…don’t bet on it.

This is supposed to be Bún bò Huế…that incredibly aromatic, lemongrass-infused, mildly-spicy bowl of porcine and bovine goodness. This isn’t remotely close.

What you’ve got here are bouncy beef balls, some decent flank and Vietnamese Ham in weak and thin broth splattered with a teaspoon of chili paste. If I’d ordered phở with beef balls, ham and flank, I’d give this a pass…as  in mediocre. As I had ordered Bún bò Huế, this is an epic fail. The broth should be dense, maroon in color, brimming with lemongrass and chili…a knuckle of pig poking through, nestled alongside a cube of pork blood. This isn’t a soup to be flavoured when served. The flavours need to build, slowly. Should be topped with a nest of crisp lettuce, purple cabbage and maybe shredded banana blossoms. Sometimes you get to plop in some pungent shrimp paste to jack things even further.

As per usual, I ordered Chả giò (spring roll) on the side.

I’m pretty sure these were from yesterday as they are exceptionally chewy. The salad wasn’t exactly a-poppin neither. That’s what ya get for a Monday visit.

Aside from the chewiness and past-prime date, these weren’t entirely heated through…the middle right around room temp. The dipping sauce raised the other eyebrow.

Nước chấm ought to be swimming with garlic, chili, lime…not just a simple fish sauce, sugar, water combo. It’s tasty…loaded with MSG, just not enough to save a sub-par spring roll.

Although I had a crap meal, I’m not giving up hope. If they hear from enough people, maybe they’ll give authenticity a try.

Pho Tan on Urbanspoon

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