Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Com Binh Dan, Sinseol-dong; 곰빙단, 신설동

I love pho. I think it might rank as my all-time favorite food. Koreans like their Koreanized pho, as they like their Koreanized pizza, Koreanized sandwiches, and Koreanized everything else; with an ever increasing number of Vietnamese people coming to Korea though, it stands to reason that there should be an improvement in the quality of Vietnamese food here by way of some Vietnamese-run shops opening up and capitalizing, right? No more imitation crab and pickled radish in my goi cuon, and no more light yellow mopwater pho with al dente noodles and mere snippets of green onions, right? Wrong.
I am on the quest, trust me. I think that things might improve in the future, but for now, finding a good bowl of pho (along with many other good food items) in Korea will prove to be a lost cause. I am probably one hundred times closer to finding a fated true love than I am a good bowl of pho. Ok, enough of this talk, because I am getting depressed again.

We go up to Shinseol-dong for work here and there nowadays, and one day recently we were trodding around the backstreets and I saw the word 'Pho' and was ready to pass by it. I pointed it out in passing to Dan, and we sort of dared each other to go in. We opened the door, walked in to what seemed to be a chicken hof, and then a familiar, non Korean aroma wafted towards us - Vietnamese food. We walked to the back of the room, to discover this little corner in the chicken bar to be a Vietnamese restaurant. To boot, the owner was a Korean man with a young Vietnamese wife, and at a table were sitting two young Vietnamese women. I thought, 'could this be... the fated bowl of pho?' and we started getting excited about the prospect of having found real pho in Korea. Two bowls of Pho Bo please, 6000W a piece. Iced coffee for Dan and a Soda chanh for me.

What came out was definitely not the kind of dish I am used to calling pho. It looked pretty similar to a Korean bowl of pho, the same clear, near-water looking broth, the same sad-looking greeen onion bits floating around. They did offer us some cilantro as standard along with the sprouts, but nothing more. The noodles were cooked to a softer consistency than Korean people do, ie not al dente, which was appreciated and added something to the experience, at least. The broth though, was very sadly lacking.

We went back today so that we could get a couple snaps up, got the same order, same experience. Not worth going back again, really. Not expensive, not terribly inconvenient since we are in the neighborhood sometimes, but it's just as bad as a Korean pho place, which is pretty sad considering they had a wall of Vietnamese groceries and supplies on the wall for sale, like a mini-mart.

Food: 1/5 stars
Ambiance: 1.5/5 stars (authentic immigrant stall food to be sure, at least)
Service: 2.5/5 stars (the owner is friendly enough)

For now, I will have to eat my patented Pho Rice Burger (recipe forthcoming) and dream of real pho...

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