The consensus online is that Pho Bang serves some of the best pho in the City. I was presently surprised with the pho in Brooklyn but had been very disappointed with my first pho experience in NY. After navigating the frozen streets of NYC on a cold January afternoon, I sought refuge in the form of an extra-large bowl at Pho Bang.
Initially, I was hopeful that this restaurant would deliver a quality bowl. The restaurant had a mixture of Vietnamese and Western patrons, was cash only, and was simple in its decor– tell-tale qualities of a good pho establishment. Furthermore, the price was right at $8.25 a bowl and $5 for spring rolls.
The spring rolls came out way too quickly leading me to wonder how fresh they were. A good test of freshness is to check the toughness of the rice paper. If it is rock hard, that’s a bad sign. These particular rolls had too much rice vermicelli, shrimp with a bad after taste, and a coarse texture.
A pho restaurant doesn’t have to have great spring rolls for it to make the Top 10 Pho Worldwide list. Indeed, some of the best pho restaurants in Vietnam served terrible spring rolls. The proof, as they say, is in the broth.
Seconds after the spring rolls were delivered, the extra-large bowl came along. Right away I noticed a lack of clarity in the bowl which may indicate poor quality broth. I slurped a spoonful of broth, then a second to be sure, and, after the third, confirmed that I would not be returning to Pho Bang.
I added the sprouts, lime, and sriracha which made no difference. The noodles were bland, the beef was boring, and the broth was more of the same.
Annoyed at the lack of flavor, I got up and left.
I am trying to remain optimistic about finding a great, authentic bowl in the City but as of now can only see the bowl as half-empty.