Darya Pino Rose

I'm Darya Rose (formerly Darya Pino) and this is my personal blog. I'm the author of Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting, and creator of Summer Tomato, one of TIME's 50 Best Websites. I'm also a neuroscience Ph.D, NYC foodist, former dieter, & soulmate to .

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Mediocre pho at My Father's Kitchen

Mediocre pho

Pho is one of my favorite foods on earth, and I've been actively searching for the perfect bowl for years. I've had a few decent versions here and there, but never anything remarkable or consistently good.

I've always believed SF could do better.

So you can imagine how excited I was to see that San Francisco Chronicle food critic, Michael Bauer, had recently been to Vietnam and dubbed My Father's Kitchen the best pho replicate in SF.

I finally made it out there tonight, but to say I was disappointed would be a tremendous understatement.

The spring rolls were bland, as was the creamy peanut sauce that accompanied them (I added fish sauce and Sriracha to make them edible).

The noodles in the pho were alright--no clumps and not falling apart--but the broth had almost no spice or flavor. Even after adding lemon, jalepeno, fish sauce, vinegar and Sriracha, the soup was still barely worth eating. I even stole some cilantro off another dish to help it out, but to little avail.

So I'm a bit disappointed in both the restaurant and the critic, and am still looking for perfect pho.

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Reader Comments (13)

I have only heard of Pho recently. I think it was Anthony Bourains' show. I want to try. I need folks like you so I can get the right thing. Thanks.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrankieTheWaffle

Have to say Pho is a very sophisticated dish. The combination of the ingredients makes it... personal. Each person has their own favorite restaurants. I've tried zillion of Pho restaurants in Vietnam but there's only one or two that I can come back. And the others made me angry when eating it and wondered how they're still in business. They have their own fans.
Summer tomatoes, you prob. should create yourself a Pho recipes and I'll test it out :)

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNguyen

@Nguyen I think you're right! I've been meaning to just suck it up and make it myself.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

Greate! One thing I think it'd be useful: you should try different types of meat and soup bones to make the broth, 'cause each creates tremendous different tastes of the soup. Hopefully you'll find the one that you like best. I'm looking forward to it :)
Ps. I made your toasted curry cauliflower for dinner today and love it!

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNguyen

Pho, like Nguyen said, is an extremely complex dish. Here in Wisconsin there's only one place I've been to on National Ave. in Milwaukee that really gets my mouth watering. Personally I think pho is great when it clears your sinuses and leaves you with nothing but a clear head. It's usually the first thing I eat if I get sick. I don't know if you didn't get cilantro with your dish, but it's the first thing I put in mine.

Once my dad attempted to cook pho when I was young. Let's just say for years it was known as the "13 cups of bath water" dish. It's really just a time consuming dish to cook with the ox tail, tripe, tendon, beef, etc.

Also, the best pho places have always been the mom and pop restaurants.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPat Hartl

You're looking in the wrong places. SF probably has Chinese-Vietnamese owned pho places so you might run into fusions of the noodle soup. If you want the good stuff, head over to downtown San Jose, Sacramento, or Garden Grove in Orange County. There will be plenty of places for you to try!

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Why would you put fish sauce in Pho? That's not how you eat it...

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAsian

@Asian Because it was so bland it desperately needed salt, and that was the only salty stuff on the table. No one should eat pho that way, I agree.

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDarya

@Darya: Actually fish sauce is a key ingredient in the pho broth. Many restaurants do not use it for cost-cutting or other reasons, but most respected Viet food authors have it in their recipes, as do most Viet restaurants in Vietnam as well. Also for those who like a little salty taste in their pho (like you did this time around ;), the fish sauce at the table is for that exact purpose, so that is how you can eat pho too. One good source is Andrea Nguyen.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLovingPho

The fun of Pho is adding your own desired amounts of sprouts, mint leaves, and heat. I much prefer South Vietnamese Pho to Northern, because they have more year round produce they tend to offer more ingredients (which adds more flavor) so try looking for Saigon based Pho eateries. Rings of onion slices is something to look for in your Pho with a generous garnish of spring onions and/or cilantro, also try Chicken (Pho Ga), beef is most popular but some people find one or the other bland.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeanuts

Atlanta has some of the best Pho. If you're ever over here, try Pho Bac or Pho Dai Loi.

December 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndre

Viet Pho at the bottom of Greek St, Soho, London.
Best place outside Vietnam. However Ho Chi Minh city is probably nearer to the Bay Area than London.

December 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRowan

Great Pho depends on fresh herbs and ingredients, but the broth and use of nuoc mam (fish sauce) rule the excellent flavors and taste. Have you ever tried Pho Hue?

I find it surprising that northern California lacks good Pho, although most restaurants may have been watered down Pho to suit diners' preferences. Have you tried any Pho in San Jose?

December 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter@tatn
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