Friday Food Porn: Drinking It Down at Pho Cyclo

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Accept the fact that a meal will take as long as it will take and be as scattered as it will be. Relax into the unique speed and particular idiosyncrasies of Cyclo, and look around at the pin-lighted murals of a Vietnamese cityscape (not unlike those in the main gallery at the Venetian in Las Vegas, with a sky on the ceiling and warped perspectives--but with a faint smudge of the Annamese Cordillera, rather than Italy, in the far distance). Learn to cope, to plan for all eventualities."

A bit of advice from this week's review of Pho Cyclo. To check out more pretty pictures, either keep on clickin' or jump over to the full slideshow here.

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Order the pho. Brace it with a beer or two. No matter what else you might want, ordering the pho is your best chance to eat quickly, and it's delicious--particularly later in the evening when the broth has cooked down to a rich, dark color. The menu is arranged with one list of pho for amateurs--like pho tai (with rare flank, like Steak-umms, floating in the bowl), pho bo vien (with unseared meatballs bobbing like life preservers), and pho ga with chicken--and one for masters. The price for a bowl with only meatballs is the same as for a masterful one of rare steak, flank, fatty flank, tendon, tripe, and meatball, so order accordingly. Know what you want, what you like. Take a moment after it arrives to breathe in its thick smell, beefy and laced with sweet spice. And don't forgo the bowl of hot sauce that comes on the side. It tastes like a cross between nuoc mam, cocktail sauce, and Sriracha, and adds a hot breath of fire to any bowl."

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"There is bun thit nuong and bun thit tom nuong, followed by bun nem nuong, bun tom nuong, bun chao tom, and bun Cyclo, which really could just be called bun thit tom nem chao tom, because it is, if you couldn't guess, a combo plate with charbroiled pork, charbroiled shrimp, charboiled meatballs, and sliced shrimp cake (which isn't charbroiled at all and tastes rather like eating a sponge soaked in shrimp ramen), all laid over rice noodles with some vegetables for garnish. Repeat this with com (the rice dishes), add a few tofu specialties, and that's pretty much the board. It is simple. It is straightforward. And, like the pho, it can be really, really good, provided you're willing sometimes to wait and often engage in protracted negotiations with different servers over cutlery and beverages and getting the final bill."

Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Pho is one of the fastest of fast foods on earth. At a good shop, you can be seated, be served, eat, pay, and be gone in 15 minutes, with barely time to breathe. For an unlucky customer at Pho Cyclo, that basic interaction might take, oh, I don't know . . . let's say an hour and 44 minutes, including the nearly 10 minutes he had to sit staring at his rapidly cooling bowl of pho tai bo vien, waiting for someone to bring him something to eat it with, and seriously considering just picking up the whole bowl in his hands and drinking it."

To check out the full version of the review, bop on over to the restaurant section, or just click here. And, of course, for more photos, there's always the slideshow.

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