On a recent weeknight I wasn't feeling up to my usual snuff; plus, it was during that run of tricky cold weather that came blowing in from the north. In between sneezes and coughs, I knew there was only one true antidote to this zombie status: pho.
Where had it been all my life? I wasn't exposed to Vietnamese cuisine until well after college, and even then I knew very little about pho. Now, whenever the sniffles invade, it's straight to a spot for a warm bowl of broth.
I was near the Midtown Pho Saigon, so I stopped in and found the usual crush of Houstonians filling the dining room and slurping away amid a constant chatter. It immediately comforted me, knowing that at any time of day this place is probably packed just enough, as the kitchen turns around big bowls of pho like a turn-of-the-century assembly line. Servers hustled from table to kitchen, then back to table, while jotting down orders on tickets and seemingly balancing about 20 other things in their brains at any time. But the energy never boiled over into madness; instead, there was a complete rhythm that, as a guest, I recognized and fell into pretty quickly. It was wonderful.
The pho is good for what ails you. I long for that perfect salty and sweet combination in my pho broth, but theirs lacked in both, especially the latter. I had to add a whole bunch of hoisin and sriracha to my pho chin bo vien (meatballs and lean beef) to bring it depth. On the plus side, however, Pho Saigon's bowl comes with copious noodles and veggies, plus tons of throw-ins (more basil than I ever need, to be honest). The room for imagination is vast, and I appreciate that.
That is to say I had a nice time with my pho and a crossword puzzle book, and my icky feelings cleared up just enough over the evening. Sadly, the spring rolls I ordered never arrived, so I had to get them to-go after the fact. I wonder with a place so bustling how often that happens.
Pho Saigon is great for first-time pho explorers, and those who need a quick dose of Houston when they're feeling a little down in the dumps. Or, to be short, this is our kind of comfort.