Such a thing as bad Pho? Yes—find it at Signature on lower Queen Anne

27Jul09

Pho-Beef-NoodlesThere are those that will eat any ol’ bowl of broth with vermicelli noodles and consider it good pho. Pho is cheap, popular in the PNW where there is a large Asian population, and, unfortunately, very trendy right now, which makes every asshole in the world want to open a pho restaurant.

Signature on lower Queen Anne (in the old Moxie space), is one of these trendy pho joints that can’t even produce a decent bowl of what my friends and I have playfully coined “crack soup.”

The Pho was terrible. It violated rules of good pho: the broth was cloudy and the noodles overcooked and sat in a big clump on the bottom of the bowl. These are two of the biggest red flags to bad pho. Folks, good pho broth can’t be made with beef bouillon or other store-bought consommé. Pho broth is the soul of Vietnamese pho. It takes 12 hours of loving care to make good pho broth and involves marrow-rich beef bones and more exotic ingredients like star anise and yellow rock sugar—and it should be clear, not cloudy. I’m not accusing Signature of pawning off Swanson’s broth as pho, but it was certainly cloudy. Pho-ck up the broth and Pho-ck up the pho. Also, the rare beef came out completely overcooked. Rare beef pho should be served with barely cooked beef that cooks the rest of the way in the hot broth; my rare beef was a scary grey color.

The service was laughable. When I asked the very NOT Vietnamese manager/owner if they had Café su Dac, the Vietnamese coffee drink that I love so much, his response was “Well, what kind of Vietnamese restaurant would we be?” Well, the answer became clear moron, not a very good one. At the end of the service when my companion asked for a to-go cup for her leftover pho (I don’t normally recommend pho leftovers—the noodles get soggy and broken—but it didn’t matter considering that’s what we’d started with), he tried to impress us with tableside to-go-container service and made a mess by pouring pho all over the place.

The experience was far from authentic. Back to my Café su Dac, I’ve never been served the delish drink other than the traditional way: a splash of sweetened condensed milk with a slow-drip coffee filter sitting on top of the glass. Half the fun of ordering Café su Dac, besides the sweet-sweet milk tempered by some of the strongest coffee I’ve ever had, is watching your coffee brew tableside. It is like S&M—it hurts so good. You want the coffee, but you have to wait very patiently; it’s complete torture because it takes 15-20 minutes to brew. Unfortunately, I was robbed of my experience with them serving it already mixed together and suspiciously brewed behind the bar in record time.

If I want Vietnamese in a fancy setting, I’ll haul my cookies downtown and pay $10 for parking and visit Long Provincial again. You should do the same. If you’re just looking for a good bowl of pho, almost anyplace in Chinatown will do. And if you’re really a pho-fan, we recommend this pho blog: http://www.lovingpho.com/. Whatever you do, avoid Signature. They’re on The List.

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One Response to “Such a thing as bad Pho? Yes—find it at Signature on lower Queen Anne”

  1. 1 Me

    Boy do I agree with you on this one! crappy!


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