Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pho to the North of Us

Phila Fusion  is a Saratoga Springs purveyor of pho and since we have been having such a fine string of pleasant spring days I thought I'd journey up that way to taste what they have to offer.

The streets were buzzing with pedestrians promenading in the fine spring weather. Cafe tables lined the sidewalks on Broadway. Saratoga is in full swing. I got a great deal on some glorious summer yarn while shopping my way through the streets, and so to get back on track with my primary objective I walked on Phila Street down the geological fault on the east side of Broadway that is the reason why Saratoga Springs has springs.  Phila Street is home to many fine shops and eateries and Phila Fusion is the end of the row on the corner at Henry Street.

Once one has passed through the entrance doors there is a lovely dining room with huge windows looking out onto the street and a stylish and serene interior for such a big space. There are dramatic glass room dividers and a bold theme of red and black. The crowd was sparse due to my late lunch/early dinner arrival time, so I had a calm few minutes before the attentive staff approached the table to perform their duties.

Their extensive menu has selections from Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese cuisines, but this trip I was interested to see how they prepare pho.  I must say that, based on my not very extensive tasting around the Capital District,  they're calling it in.

I had the Crispy Roll appetizer, described as: "mixed veggies with a choice of grounded chicken or tofu wrapped in rice paper, fried and served with Vietnamese dipping sauce". I had the ground chicken rather than the tofu. The rice paper is often uncooked in Vietnamese appetizer rolls, but it is fried to a crisp in the Phila Fusion rolls, and unfortunately in this example the most distinctive flavor was the inside of a refrigerator.

The pho is described as: "Vietnamese soup noodles in an aromatic broth, garnished w/ scallions, onions, and cilantro. Served w/ bean sprouts, basil, mint and lime."; offered with a choice of  options for $11.95-12.95:
sliced beef
sliced chicken
sliced pork
mixed seafood
mixed vegetable

I chose the sliced beef and decided to compare it with what I had tasted at Pho Yum, My Linh, Van's and Kim's. A very modest dish of the traditional sprouts, citrus, basil and jalapenos arrived at the table first - no mint in sight, and there was lemon, no lime. Then came a charming tray of hoisin sauce, two kinds of hot sauce and sugar in tiny crocks with adorable small wooden spoons. I had irresistible urges to play with all of the tiny crockery because each had a miniature lid  along with the tiny spoon.  I faked needing to taste the hoisin sauce several times in order to appear grown up enough to play with all the little pieces and not be overly obvious about it.

The broth was aromatic, and had scallions and paper thin onion slices with lovely fried garlic slices as a garnish, however I did not see any evidence of cilantro, but the most noticeable feature was an almost complete lack of salt. There was plenty of beef, and once I stirred up the pile of noodles from the bottom it was apparent that it's a hearty bowl of noodles.  The only thing is that the noodles were almost paste because they had been overcooked or wet for too long. That and the lack of  a robust broth gave the impression of rice paste used to mend books - heck yeah, I've dipped my finger in and tasted while I was mending books, so I should know. I made a major mistake by trying to raise the saltiness with soy sauce.  Please don't try that yourself, ask for salt instead if you should also find the broth lacking. With noodles that have no tooth, it would take more than salt to bring this bowl up to a level above "meh".

So while you may find many delicious and interesting dishes from their extensive menu, I would not recommend the Phila Fusion pho. I could possibly go back to see if this visit's pho was a fluke, but why drive 30 miles on the off chance that they are capable of preparing a more interesting bowl of soup?


Burnt My Fingers said...

I have to say I agree with you about the pho at Phila Fusion. How was Van's? That's the one place I haven't tried but have been disappointed in the others on your list.

LorreS said...

I think we expect different things from pho. I think Van's is ok.