Tu Do Review: Pho and bo bia and google

Tu Do Review: Pho and bo bia and google

Do you ever order that thing on the menu that you just have no idea what it is? There is great comfort and joy to eat an expertly roasted chicken with crisp skin and juicy meat. Conversely, it’s exciting to order the dish that you’ve never experienced, and let your taste buds experience something new. But if you’re one of those people with internet on your phone, then you can totally look up everything on a translated menu. Recently I visited a Vietnamese restaurant on Bowery Street and they had specials listed on the table. They were translated phonetically without any English descriptions of the dish itself. I asked the server what all of the items were, but he spoke so fast and I couldn’t understand shit. So I turned to google.

The one item that intrigued me was the ‘bo bia’ because it was priced as an appetizer. I wanted pho on that particular day and only a minor addendum to my meal was needed. Obviously, if the menu had not been translated phonetically, there’s nothing that google can do for me. If I had been in a Chinese restaurant, and sitting in front of an all-Chinese menu, I would have been flummoxed.

They didn’t include any descriptions of ‘bo bia’ so I typed into to my phone and waited for Google to retrieve results at dial-up like speeds. The top result said that bo bia is Vietnamese spring rolls with Chinese sausage! Well of course I had to order that and see what it was all about. Most places serve Vietnamese spring rolls with shrimp. Maybe I just prefer the familiar version with shrimp, but these just didn’t impress that much. I was more proud of the fact that I confidently ordered from a part of the menu that had no English, but the food itself was just ok. It may just be their version of bo bia that disappointed me, but if I see it again elsewhere, it’ll certainly be on my order.

Pho was the main dish for my dinner. This a solid effort, although not remarkable one way or another. You could easily discern the beefiness in the broth and that was pleasurable. But the beef eye round on the top of the broth was not that tender. Where as the thinly sliced eye round disappointed, the brisket and tripe stood up to the taste test. I’m not a good judge of good or bad pho because I actually enjoy the version you find in Manhattan Chinatown. More discerning eaters usually shit on the Vietnamese places in Manhattan, and favor places in Brooklyn.

Recently I heard about a couple of new places in the East Village and in the LES that feature $8 to $10 dollar pho. Usually in Chinatown, it costs $6 or less. It’s weird to hear about ones that cost $8 or more. My first reaction to hearing about it is whether a pho novice like myself can distinguish the quality in the $8 dollar bowl. I’m completely dismissive of the assertion that someone can tell you there’s better ingredients, and then you taste it and agree. I fully believe if it’s better ingredients, you should be able to taste it without them telling you about it. While most of us like to believe that we are the arbiters of our actions and taste buds, we’re also easily swayed by commercials that tell us something is more sophisticated. This Grey Poupon commercial wouldn’t work if people rely solely on taste buds and don’t care about mimicking the heightened sophistication of using a foreign sounding mustard. I think about things like whether $9 pho would taste better or worse in a disposable bowl and whether handpulled noodle joints would benefit from a shiny decor of a more expensive ramen place.

This week I heard about this story from NYTimes about a proposed legislation in NYC that would disallow new fast food restaurants with 1/10 of a mile of a school. This is an action that’s in response to the report last month that obesity and proximity to fast food were linked [NYTimes]. I think it’s a fantastic idea. Honestly, I’m pretty surprised by the kind of uproar that it’s caused. See here and here. This is so obviously a good idea that I’m just at a loss why people aren’t just overjoyed that someone wants to take the results of a credible study and apply it to the way we govern. And use that to help society as a whole. It just seems like a no brainer.

What about you? Would you support legislation that would help reduce obesity? We’re talking about affecting your wallets directly. You’ll waste less tax dollars on fighting the obesity health issue in this country. This is about whether you want to solve problems the way smart people do it. Do you want to listen to people with data [read: President Obama]? Or do you want to take a stab in the imaginary WMD dark [read: President Bush]?

Tu Do102 Bowery.New York, NY 10013212-966-2666

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