February 10, 2006

Pho disappointment

Fan Si Pan
Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

As FoodNerd has mentioned, I'm visiting Chicago for a few days between classes, and as such, I'm working from her place during the day. When we got to her neighborhood last night after picking me up at the Ashland train stop, she mentioned that the local Vietnamese fresh roll / bahn mi store had started offering pho (pronounced "fuh") -- the vietnamese style beef noodle soup that I've learned to appreciate as something wholly different from my beloved nu ro mian, but just as delightful (and far more available in the New England area). I love me all manner of soup noodles, so I had pretty much decided last night what I was going to get for lunch today.

Fan Si Pan is a sort of upscale hippie/hipster joint, a bright space decked out in spring green and light wood with colorful highlights, and it seems to be trying to cater to a different clientele than the Pho shops I'm used to visiting in the Boston area. (I do wonder what kind of traffic they get in this largely Hispanic neighborhood: around 12:45pm there was a signle group of four sitting at the table in the window and a lone woman waiting for takeout.)

I definitely got the impression that they specialized in the sandwich/roll-up market with their bahn mi and spring roll menu, but I couldn't tell you how they measure up since that's never really been my thing. (Perhaps FoodNerd has an opinion.) The Pho, which was recently added to the menu (ideal, really, for this time of year), comes in small, medium and large; I got the large for six and change after tax.

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed.

I was already a little disappointed that even ordering in, the soup came in a 32 oz. disposable styrofoam cup/bowl. I want my soup in a real bowl, but I guess it's a testament to their focus on quick, takeout, eat-with-your-hands sandwiches and spring rolls that they appear to specialize in. They used the skinny rice noodle that is more common to bun (vermicelli) and, of course, which you find in Bahn Mi. There wasn't much beef to speak of (unsurprisingly, no tripe, but also none of the yummy tendon that I love so much), and only a few bits of beansprout mixed in, nothing like the pile of beansprouts and basil that I've come to expect to accompany my soup. Also missing was the plum sauce that adds an extra layer of richness to the soup, although they did have a bottle of Sriracha chili sauce on the table along with... soy and wasabi? Weird, but I knew going in that this wasn't going to be a traditional Vietnamese dining experience. The broth was actually quite good -- good hearty beefiness but seemingly without the MSG that is common to this dish (perhaps one positive in its less traditional style).

Ah well, live and learn. On the one hand, I need to curb my expectations, but on the other, I need to be more cognizant of where I'm going and try to play to their strengths. The soup was still a good thing on a cold winter day, but maybe I should take a page out of FoodNerd's book and pick up some Mexican soup next time around.

Posted by tallasiandude at February 10, 2006 05:09 PM

You should head over to Spring restaurant. I work there, in the kitchen. We make a Pho that I personally think is pretty good...but...well I haven't had much to compare it to. But I like it.

Posted by: Cori at February 15, 2006 05:36 PM

Well hello tallasiandude. Just stopped by and thought I'd say "Hi".


Posted by: Dan at February 16, 2006 07:52 PM
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