Yesterday was grey.  Yesterday was gloomy.  Yesterday I decided it was time for pho.

Pho is another staple comfort food in Richmond, and I’ve discovered that nearly all the restaurants serving it are clustered in and around the Golden Village.  What is pho?  It’s a traditional kind of Vietnamese noodle soup, most often with various forms of beef, tendon, meatballs, and/or tripe.  In my internet adventuring I came across one site that said if it’s made with chicken, it’s not actually pho.  But I don’t know!  Any thoughts?  Maybe the men of Dot Com Pho will weigh in; these guys know their stuff.

For Day #2, I again followed the suggestion of a helpful reader and decided to try Pho Han, an unassuming little place located in a strip mall south of Bridgeport Station.

Once I’d made my decision and checked the map, I rode out into the rain.  I’d like to introduce you to my bike Talulah, who is the love of my life (meaning maybe I need to go on more dates) and gets me almost everywhere I to go.  She was given to me by two dear friends, and I adore her.

Though it didn’t take long to get there, by the time I arrived I looked like a drowned puppy.  Actually, make that a drowned rat, because puppies are adorable and I most certainly was not.  I’m an optimist, however, and chose to thank the rain rather than curse it.  When soaking wet, the tea handed to you upon arrival is hotter, the broth tastes richer, and the beef becomes even more tender.  I’m the type of person who goes cross-country skiing almost solely for the cookies and hot chocolate afterwards, so freezing temperatures or pouring rain (as any treeplanter could tell you) are the ideal precursors to a fine-tasting meal.

As a good pho joint should be, Pho Han was completely unpretentious.  There were only 22 (polka-dotted) seats, fake greenery hiding the kitchen, and Blondie playing on the radio (Call Me!).  My server brought a mug of tea right away and everything else as I needed it.  Granted, I was the only person in there at the time, but sometimes that means you’re completely forgotten about.  Not in this case.  Deciding what to order took me all of 10 seconds: Spring roll or salad roll?  Salad roll please!  Pho with tendon, tripe, meatballs, beef brisket, beef flank, rare sliced sirloin beef, or all of the above?  I’ll take a small order with all of it, thanks!  There’s my daily requirement of iron MET.

The food arrived quickly, and I scrambled to get it photographed as my stomach roared.  The salad roll (hand-rolled in rice-paper with shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, and cilantro) was served with peanut sauce, and tasted fresh and light.  The sauce was a bit sweet for my liking, but that didn’t stop me from dousing every bite with it.  I really, really love peanut sauce.  At $I.99 each, I would definitely pickup two or three of these for a quick, healthy snack on the run.

My bowl of the House Special was filled to the brim with noodles, broth, green onions, and plenty of meat.  Not much tripe in there, however.  The bright pink strips of sirloin were laid carefully on the edge of the bowl, so I could cook them in the hot soup at my leisure.  The traditional accompaniments of crunchy bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime, and a few slices of hot pepper went into the steaming mix, and it was all finished off with generous swirls of what I call – because I am a refined and articulate adult – the “brown sauce” (hoisin) and the “red sauce” (chili).

The broth was clear and fragrant – just what my shivering body needed – and the noodles still toothsome, a word and characteristic I love.

The verdict?  For $10.73 including a 20% tip, this is exactly the kind of place you can come to for FRESH, casual, and inexpensive comfort food.  They also have a takeout menu, and are open seven days a week.  If you’re not in the mood for pho, there’s Vietnamese subs, seafood, rice dishes, and vermicelli to choose from.

As with the dim sum at Sun Sui Wah, I’ll be curious to see how this pho stacks up against the others I’ll be eating.  Perhaps with those meals I’ll be slightly less drenched, and no longer describing myself as “rat-like.”  Though if we continue to look on the bright side, rain and pho go together like Blondie and eye-liner, so I shall not be disappointed with future wet bike-rides.

A big thank you to everyone for their feedback on yesterday’s inaugural post!  I was very pleased to hear what people liked and wanted more of, not to mention the many rhubarb suggestions I plan to put to good use.  This is going to be an incredible journey, and I’m glad you’ll be along for the ride.

Ahoy Day #3!!