This morning, Hong and Kim, the Vietnamese-Americans behind the terrific Ravenous Couple blog, alerted me to an interesting article in the Washington Post on upscale renditions of pho by non-Viet chefs. Staff journalist Tim Carman struts his pho knowledge in his thoughtful analysis of the chefs' efforts to present revamped version of the Vietnamese classic. Among the highlights of "Pho or faux? Area Chefs put their own spin on the Vietnamese noodle soup":
- Chef Nick Sharpe of the new Ba Bay restaurant makes a rendition that includes cuminy rice paddy herb (rau om) as a garnish. His first attempts didn't impress the Vietnamese Americans who own Ba Bay. But he subsequently sous vides rib eye, sears, and thinly slices it for each bowl. He doesn't serve pho with a garnish plate, which Carman sees as being unusual but that's how it pho is traditionally served. There is no fish sauce or charring of the aromatics in Bay Bay's pho recipe, which is part of the article.
- Esteemed and Beard award chef Michel Richard pulled his sablefish pho from the menu at Michel, a restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.
- Chef Haidar Karoum at Proof makes a pho terrine instead of a noodle soup. His veal-based terrine outsells the familiar pate de campagne (country pate) at the restaurant.
- Justin Bittner at Bar Pilar does a more or less regular pho based on a recipe from Secrets of the Red Lantern, a book by Pauline and Luke Nguyen based on their restaurant in Sydney. His beef broth includes daikon and sometimes chicken too.
What was also interesting about the Washington Post article were the comments that people wrote. Many of them directed readers to pho shops in the Viet hub at the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. Others asked:
- Why do people have to tinker with something that's already perfect?
- What's wrong with revinventing a classic?
What are your thoughts? If you've experienced some of these new DC renditions, let us know your reactions. Or, if you have a tip of a favorite pho joint in DC or Virginia, weigh in.
I personally look forward to visiting DC and checking it out!