The normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam occurred on July 11, 1995. Five years later, former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton went to the Land of the Blue Dragon, the first President to do so since the war ended.
As part of his trip to Saigon, President Clinton sampled the local fare at a restaurant called Pho 2000, a designation given to commemorate the President’s visit. Since then Pho 2000 Saigon (not to be confused with Pho 2000 Tenderloin) has become a must eat for tourists traveling to Vietnam. The place has gained so much popularity that they changed locations, now conspicuously located above a Coffee Bean in downtown Ho Chi Minh.
The first time I went to Pho 2000 was in May of 2010. Tricked by the President’s endorsement I had two quick bowls before wandering the streets of Saigon like George Costanza in search of suitable facilities to relieve myself. In 2013, as part of my Trip Heard Round the World and on assignment as a pho pundit, I returned to Pho 2000. With a stronger stomach and with an emergency evacuation procedure plan in place, I was ready to give Pho 2000 Saigon another shot. Unfortunately, the upgrade only applied to the facilities and not to the pho. While the moniker reads “Pho for the President”, the food is not even suitable for us pho plebeians.
Understandably, Pho 2000 is milking the publicity of President Clinton’s visit by investing their time in marketing not manufacturing. This is evident by the patrons of Pho 2000 of whom none are locals and by the employees who meekly serve bowl after bowl while their faces deliver another message- eat somewhere else.
It is for shame that Pho 2000 has become the first stop for international epicureans wishing to sample an authentic bowl of pho. The misrepresentation of this national dish will leave them disappointed, their taste buds the ultimate victims should they choose not to spring for another bowl.
To them and to President Clinton I say, fear not for on your next visit TPOL shall tell you where to go.