Friday, June 17, 2005

Than Brothers Pho

Sometimes knowledge precedes experience. That is one thing that differentiates us from other animals. We have found ways of translating experience into language and visual records so that others may know of it. But sometimes it is better to experience rather than to learn secondhand. In matters of food and drink, I always thought that this was the case. Words (as the wine "commentary" industry continually shows) fail to convey what it is like to experience tastes. In a similar manner, cooking food from recipes when you have never had the dish before is always a problem - how do you really know how it is supposed to taste, look and feel? This commonly happens in our household and we just gamely do it anyway, scrupulously following the directions and eating whatever comes out.

One of the best dishes I've made in a long time was a Seafood Hot Pot or Pho. I have never had pho - a Vietnamese noodle, meat and broth dish - so I really didn't know much about what I would end up with. Well, it was an incredibly tasty and slurpy meal that I couldn't get enough of. I was looking forward to going to some pho places on my Ballard Bites project so I could get a taste of how the pros do it.

The first one I went to was Than Brothers Pho on Market Street in Downtown Ballard. I had done research on it and found that it had received some very good reviews. The place is in a newish building and has a very busy dinerish feel to it. They really sell only variations on one thing, pho, which is fine with me as long as they do it well. I had a beef pho (with flank steak and round-eye steak). The meals also came with a dish of basil, jalapenos and bean sprouts to put into the soup. I so fervently wish to say it was sublime, but it wasn't. It was meh. I was definitely underwhelmed. The other problem was that after 40 years in the fork/spoon/knife world, my use of chopsticks makes as much sense as a New Guinea aborigine with a GPS. But it seems we were invisible to the restaurant after our pho bowls were dropped off so I couldn't get a utensil better suited to my fumble fingers. I have to imagine that pho can be transcendently good with bursting flavors and smells, like what I cooked, but I'm finding it hard to make the trip to a pho restaurant again if I get another bowl of unremarkability. And by the way, I don't know if this is pho restaurant tradition or not, but note the number of your table. You pay by going up to the cashier and saying what your table number is and he will find your bill. The saving grace of the night was that eating pho is really cheap and filling!

4 Ironic Wool Caps
2 Cellphones
1 Hard Hats
0 Blue Wigs


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