Phở is an incredible Vietnamese soup that has a meat broth, rice noodles, onions, coriander, and, usually, when brought to your table, rare (i.e., red) slices of beef. It can also be made with tripe, tendon, meatballs, and other good things. When it is brought to your table, you are given a pile of basil and and bean sprouts. You add the basil for flavor, and the bean sprouts to cool it down a bit, if need be. The broth has to be hot, though, to bring the meat to doneness.
When made properly, it’s a delight at least in part because the flavors are all separate, not melded together as in much European cooking.
The best Phở in Boston and Cambridge proper is at Phở Loa in Chinatown. Close seconds are the Phở Pasteur in Chinatown and Le’s in Harvard Square (Le’s is somewhat uneven). Supposedly the best Phở in the Boston area is Phở 2000 in Dorchester, but I haven’t made it yet.
I first got acquainted with Vietnamese food when I worked as a bus boy and broccoli-chopper at a Vietnamese restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Now, to the topic of this post.
Last night I had some errands to run in Boston, not least taking a peek at the new Apple Store in Boston. I hadn’t eaten all day, and was getting faint from hunger. Seeking a place to eat, I saw the sign for Island Hopper, on Mass. Ave. near Newbury.
Island Hopper: Worst Phở in Boston?
I’ve had bad Phở before, but this took the cake. The broth was strangely gray and looked chickeny — chicken flavor in the broth is fine, but this seemed over-done. No extra side condiments were brought with the bowl; instead, some basil was just dumped on top. The meat was completely cooked. There was no hot sauce or hoisin saunce. The meat flavor didn’t jump out as it does in a good bowl. Finally, the broth was loaded with salt, which is a disgusting way to try and repair bad soup.
It was a joke. They have no business putting Phở on the menu.