Hmmmm … how can I write this without sounding like an ignorant asshole?
I wanted to like Viet Nam*, because A) it’s close to home and B) I like to support local small businesses.
After being dazzled by Pho Colonial’s bún, my Food Bastard encouraged me to try Viet Nam, a “real pho restaurant,” which to him means “not so … clean,” his words, not mine. So tonight we tried it, and while I was quite sure I wouldn’t be able to recreate my bún experience, I was surprised in a not-real-good way by Viet Nam.
The setting was fine, though the nine flat screen TVs in the dining room seemed a bit excessive. I had taken a quick gander at the menu beforehand, and had decided to try #96, vermicelli soup with beef & hot lemongrass condiment. I ordered this because I remembered that the bún I had at Pho Colonial had both beef and lemongrass in the title. I even asked the server if what I was ordering was like bún. She sort of nodded, saying it would be. I wasn’t confident. Food Bastard happily ordered eye of round pho.
Not pictured: what I actually received. The reason why there is no picture is that the bowl set before me was so shockingly full of animal body parts that were not beef or lemongrass, that I forgot to photograph it. I freaked out a little. There were things that looked like huge slices of crumbly liver, thick slices of bone with meat on it, and what looked like enough chili paste to choke a … clearly I don’t even know what to say to finish that sentence I’m so out of my ethnic league.
We waived down another employee who made me feel like an idiot for asking “what is this?!” while trying to pick up one of the aforementioned slippery, crumbly liver chunks with my chopsticks. She answered “blood.” “Blood sausage?” Food Bastard asked. She nodded. After a short conversation where we went back and forth about what I ordered versus what I wanted, we finally gave up and she offered to bring me what Food Bastard had. Now I’m not a huge pho fan, so I was like “okay.” Double disappointment.
The pho was fine, but once you’ve had bun you’ll never go back. If you’re me, at least.
Here’s my main beef though, about the whole Viet Nam thing. If you worked there, and you knew that #96 is basically a cornucopia of various cow animal parts steeped in ass-punishing heat, would you serve it to someone who looks like me and who had so much trouble ordering without question/concern/total consternation? This dish was not for a somewhat virgin pho eater. That part is now obvious to me. But come on! Why did this even happen?
Now if I knew I could get the Viet Nam equivalent of Pho Colonial’s bún, I’d so go back there and get it. But I just can’t be sure, and I don’t want to be disappointed again. I also don’t want to waste so many varied animal meats and/or organs again. Or feel like an idiot again. So, lesson learned?
I left craving that bún more than ever, feeling guilty for being so disappointed … in myself mostly.
*Viet Nam is what the red neon sign says outside, but their website says Vietnam Restaurant Bar & Grill. Same place, though.