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Archive for August, 2010

Pho in Europe!

Made a trip to Europe in the spring and had pho in a few places: Marseille, London, and Paris.  All 3 places were rated on very different ends of the pho spectrum.  So which was best?

My first bowl of pho in Europe was in Marseille.  I didn’t get to do any research before hand; just asked the tourist information for a Vietnamese restaurant! They listed a few but couldn’t recommend any.  We randomly picked one and started heading there.  It was in a residential area, with no other restaurants around, but the bright decor stood out.

The restaurant was called La Route Mandarine.  When I pushed the door open, I almost hit the table that was by the door.  The place was tiny!  It looked like we walked into someone’s living room.  The owner, who was also the chef, greeted us and went back into the kitchen.  The kitchen was just to the side, and it was very small- like a kitchen at someone’s home! The menu had a variety of Asian dishes and only one pho (pho tai).  It was 8.5 euros.  I was somewhat hesitant knowing the broth would probably be artificially flavored since pho isn’t exactly a popular dish.  I was already there, can’t turn back now!  We tried the pho and the grilled beef Vietnamese sub.

The pho was more aromatic than I expected it to be- the onions added lots of flavor.  The broth still tasted a little artificial though.  The beef was tender, noodles were cooked right; overall, it was pretty good for somewhere we just stumbled upon! The sub had generous portion of beef and the beef was marinated well.  However, it didn’t taste much like a Vietnamese sub- not the same usual toppings!

http://www.phocafe.co.uk/locations/oxford-circus

Next, we ventured off to London.  Found this place “Pho” on Urbanspoon.  They have 3 different locations and they all had good reviews.  We went to the Oxford Circus location.  The decor is simple and modern- I like their logo too!.  This location has 2 floors and seats approximately 50 people.  We were there in the afternoon so it wasn’t busy.

The menu had a page with the description and history of pho.  They seem to be focused on introducing pho as the new fad.  Something exotic and healthy.   We ordered a pho tai and a bun. The pho was 8.40 pounds! I think that’s the most expensive bowl of pho I’ve ever had.

The pho and its sides were very well presented.  Unfortunately, the broth was very bland and lacked depth.  I wasn’t expecting much but it still was disappointed. The bun came really soggy! We told the server and she offered to talk to the manager but we didn’t want to bother. Not the best experience but oh well!

Last top- Paris! Now, I had high expectations for pho in Paris.  It has a large Vietnamese population- there’s even a Vietnam town.  My family in Paris took us to Le Bambou by Tolbiac station.  There were many Vietnamese restaurants in that area.  Unlike most restaurants in Paris, this one was noisy and crowded.  There was a lineup outside- I had a good feeling about this place!

We started with a papaya salad which was fresh and delicious! Now for the main event- my usual, pho tai.  It looked different than pho we have here in Vancouver.  It had a lot more garnish in the bowl.  They served basil, saw leaf, lemon, chili and this chili sauce that tasted like a mix of hoisin and chili oil.  The beef was rare, thin, and very tender.  They used thicker noodles and it was cooked perfectly- not mushy!  Broth was flavorful and I couldn’t taste the MSG.  Lastly, the garnishes added so much good flavor.  It tasted amazing when combined with noodles, beef, and their sauce! It could be because the phos I had previously were not great, but this is the best pho I’ve had!  I really enjoyed it. It tasted different than anything I’ve had in Vancouver.

Has anyone else had Pho in Paris before?  Let me know what your thoughts are!

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