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25 Catt. 3: Pho-Bachi

2013 November 20
by JEREMY, C.J.

Opinion of CHIEF JUSTICE JEREMY, in chambers.

There’s nothing quite like pho on a cold day.

Of course, the day I happened upon Pho-Bachi, it wasn’t a cold day at all. Far from it. The sun was shining bright, the sky was a brilliant blue, and a particularly feisty yellow jacket was hell-bent on destroying my lunch hour.

Luckily there’s nothing quite like pho on a hot day either.

Pho-Bachi.

Pho-Bachi, the mobile gastronomic enterprise.

Pho-Bachi is a mobile gastronomic enterprise which, as the name suggests, serves pho (chicken or steak) and hibachi (chicken, steak, and shrimp).

Fusion again. We’ve voiced time and time again our hesitance with regard to fusion. I hesitated again a moment. But I remembered that pho itself is the result of either French-Indonchinese or Chinese-Indochinese culinary interaction, so I can’t so easily look askance at the truck’s fusion of Japanese and Vietnamese flavors. Besides, the two flavors aren’t really fused at all; they’re simply both sold from the same truck.

Faced with the choice of hibachi or pho, I opted for the latter because, as I’ve said, there’s nothing quite like pho on a hot day either. Hot soup cools you down, right? Right. And it was a fairly hot day, otherwise pleasant, just marred by that goddamn yellow jacket.

Between chicken and steak, I opted for steak. Sure, sure, there’s pho ga; even Così is trying to get in on that game. (It’s a now-removed “Italian” soup with the faintest hint of lemongrass.) But my go-to pho concoction is always a laundry list of various cow parts—eye-of-round, flank, brisket, down to beef tendon and Bible tripe—though I’m always wary of a cut called “cow something” I once spied on a sign listing every cut imaginable, at a wholesale vendor in the older, less Bethesda-ized part of the Florida Avenue/Union Market.

Really, Così?

Really, Così?

Funny story: I once took some friends to an otherwise generic place on H Street in Chinatown to taste a surprisingly delicious beef omasum I had very much enjoyed on a previous visit. (Ok, fine, sometimes I “ennoble[] certain ingredients precisely because most people thing they are gross.” So I ordered Rocky Mountain oysters at a ticky-tacky place in Denver covered in animal heads. Whatever. You do it too.) I ordered the beef omasa, but got only a blank stare in return. I said it again, “you know, beef omasa,” and was told I wouldn’t like it. I insisted I’d had it before, in that very establishment, and had very much enjoyed it and would like to try it again and share it with my friends. “We’re out,” I was told, but that smelled fishy. I persisted. But by that time my waiter had made the executive decision to remove it from the menu. Fourth time is clearly not the charm.

Ok, so maybe that wasn’t all that funny.

But I digress. Especially since Pho-Bachi doesn’t come close to offering tripe. Bible.

Pho from Pho-Bachi.

Pho from Pho-Bachi.

An order of beef pho did come with fat brisket and flank, though. The brisket was a beautiful medium, while the flank was a bit more well-done, as expected. Both were fresh, well prepared, and delicious, and came swimming in a lovely, heady broth perfumed with star anise and clove and onion and filled with a heavy helping of vermicelli, bean sprouts, Thai basil, and hot peppers. With it came tiny containers of hoisin and Sriracha, the perfect amounts for flavoring the already flavorful broth.

Even though pho is traditionally a street food in Vietnam, I was suspicious as to how well it would translate to the American street. This is clearly not eat-as-you-walk food, as you might do with a sandwich or a half smoke or a dosa. In Vietnam, it is often served at a stall with seats and a table. Back on this side of the Pacific, Pho-Bachi gives you a to-go container—and a rather sizeable one at that (you won’t go hungry)—and sends you on your way, cradling your large container of steaming hot liquid as you would a feverish newborn, in search of a vacant park bench or the confines of a drab break room.

But Pho-Bachi surprised me. The pho actually transported quite well. There was no scalding, no stained Oxford, and, aside from that goddamn yellow jacket, no real trouble at all.

Brisket.

Brisket. Pretty, right?

Was Pho-Bachi the very best pho I’ve ever tasted? No, probably not. It’s hard to compete with the Eden Center. But it was actually a good pho, a very good one I’d say, better and more satisfying than some I’ve had in some restaurants. (I’d say it’s better than Pho DC in Chinatown, certainly, but I wasn’t terribly impressed by that establishment.)

I’d give Pho-Bachi 3 out of 4 stars. But since we don’t actually award stars here at Supreme Cart, I’ll say instead that it’s

AFFIRMED. It is so ordered.

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