Toronto Phodown Presents, Eastern Promises Presents: Chin to Chin
Day Two in HCMC (Day Seven in Vietnam, Plus a Phodown on Pho Hung)
Address: 10 Nguyễn Thị Nghĩa, Bến Thành, HCMC Vietnam
Date & time of visit: November 27th 2013 + 9:00pm
Price (only one size): ~55,000 dong (~$2.75 CAD) (menu)
Broth: 8.5 | Beef: 8.5 | Noodle: 7 | Condiment: 9 | Service/atmosphere: 8 | Overall: 8.2
Broth: 6.5 | Beef: 7.5 | Noodle: 8 | Condiment: 8 | Service/atmosphere: 7 | Overall: 7.4
Overall Rating: 7.8
Quality per dollar (based on large pho): 2.84
Write-up from Jason:
This day in HCMC largely centered around a class at the redoubtable Vietnam Cookery Center. Mikey and I woke up quite early and hoofed it down to the Ben Thanh Market where we were met by our enthusiastic tour guide, Su, as well as two other students (Eli and Elia, a couple from Israel). Su gave us a thorough tour of the market, which although purveying traditional Vietnamese ingredients, is largely geared towards tourists. Fortunately, Su gets a locals-only deal there. We tried a variety of herbs and candies that boggled the mind and senses.
From there we made our way over to the Cookery Center itself. It was only a few blocks but Su insisted on getting us a cab, which was easier said than done – most drivers didn’t want to take us so short a distance! But we got there safe and sound.
It turns out Eli and Elia had shelled out for the professional package so we split off into two groups with me and Mikey preparing a morning glory salad, a clay-pot chili chicken and pho bo. Eli made pretty much every dish under the damned sun. Fortunately, he is both a skilled home chef and a generous fellow, and happily shared the fruits of his efforts.
Learning new knife techniques, working with some new flavors, and generally horsing around, Mikey and I had a fantastic time at the cookery center. The highlight was assembling our own bowls of pho at the end of the session. I say assembling because most of the work was done by the staff – we only observed as they boiled the bones, added the spices and really did all the grunt work. Still, it was cool to assemble our own bowls. It’s tough to judge my own pho, but if I had to phodown it I’d say:
Condiment: 6 (we didn’t get a whole lot)
Service & Atmosphere: 9
Not bad for my first try.
The only negative of the day (for me) was when Su and our chef instructor told us over beers that Mikey was a better chef. I’m sure Mikey would see it differently.
After the lesson, Mikey and I relaxed at the hotel room for a bit and then set up shop over at Trung Nguyen Coffee, enjoying their fast wifi and excellent iced coffee. Like Ca Phe Pho Co, it was an excellent spot for some serious live blogging. And how did we follow that up? You guessed it: a phodown!
Our destination this day was a local pho chain called Pho Hung (actually, it has branches in the states as well). Our hotel had recommended it after we asked for a locals pho, which we took as a good sign.
Pho Hung ended up being my least favorite pho of the trip (not counting my own) but is as good as anything I’ve had in North America. The broth was of the same style as Le but just didn’t have the depth and umami. Condiments, again, were just awesome. This is where Vietnam just sets the standard – big bunches of herbs, excellent sauces, and even fried doughnuts (for purchase and dunking). Noodles were the weak point. I’ve come to expect overcooked noodles in Vietnam and here it was the worst – well beyond al dente. Service was good, though, especially when I spied a staffer chase down a customer who left his cell phone behind.
We wound up our second to last day in Vietnam with a pair of banh mys and some Bia Saigon in our hotel.