Not all of our eating adventures end well. And it really isn’t that this one ended badly, just with disappointment. I had been to Pho Mi in Miamisburg once before, with friends, and what I ordered then, blindly, had been blah. But what they ordered looked good, so I decided I had to come back and give it another try with the First Reader.
Pho Mi, which near as I can tell translates to Soup Soup in Vietnamese, is a little nicer inside than Yung’s Cafe, but they both serve their coke in bottles alongside a glass of ice, and their waitstaff is just as friendly and helpful.
We started out with a spring roll and a summer roll each, because I used to make summer rolls, and he’d never had one before. The difference, if you are unfamiliar with them, is that spring rolls (meant to be eaten in cooler weather) are deep fried. Summer rolls are also wrapped in the delicate rice paper, then quickly and gently steamed. If done right, the shredded vegetable inside is barely wilted, and it’s like eating a salad in a handy wrapper. With both styles of roll, when I have made them in the past I used whatever leftovers were on hand to accomplish the fillings. The spring rolls at Pho Mi were very tasty, the summer rolls had a lot of cilantro in them, which the First Reader does not care for, and very dry shredded pork, which was not helped much by the rice-wine based dipping sauce both rolls were served with.
So far one good mark, one strike. For our entree he ordered Bun Bo Hue (Hot Spicy Pork and Beef Soup) and I decided on Cha Chien Man Gung (Deep fried boneless fish in ginger sauce). The bowl of soup arrived with fresh cilantro, ginger, jalapenos and mung bean sprouts on the side to be mixed in. Somewhat more ominously, although neither of us realized it at the time, it had a slick of bright red chili oil floating on the broth. I didn’t think anything of it – I knew what it was, but he’s much more tolerant of very spicy food than I am, and he didn’t realize just how spicy ‘hot spicy’ meant, because this is something that is relative to where you are eating. I took the cilantro away from him, and he dug in, enjoying the thinly sliced meat and the noodles.
My plate came without chopsticks, although his soup was served with a pair perched on the bowl. The fish, arrayed on whole lettuce leaves, smelled wonderfully gingery, for good reason. The ginger sauce, upon tasting, seemed to be mostly crudely chopped fresh ginger (this, by the way, is NOT a complaint. I love ginger) and nuoc mam. Now, I like fish sauce. I have a bottle in the cupboard the First Reader occasionally makes hex signs at, and I use it judiciously when appropriate. The amount of it in this sauce – or possibly extraneously added salt, impossible to tell – made the dish horribly salty. Edible, but just on the side of that. The bowl of sticky rice which was served with it was poor quality, and overcooked to mushiness. I’m a bit of a rice snob, and this had no real flavor. It worked well enough when combined with the very salty sauce, but I wasn’t going to eat much of it, and there wasn’t much sauce.
We wound up not eating everything on our plates, and he declined to even attempt to bring the soup home with him, although the server kindly offered to put it in a container for him. When he’s sweating freely over the meal, and telling me some time later as we’re on the way home that his lips are still tingling, it was a pretty fierce spice. On the other hand, the flavors of his soup were really good. (I had a couple of small tastes. Whew! I just can’t do the heat).
We probably won’t be back. Once being disappointing could have been my blindly ordering a meal that I had no idea what it was. Twice is enough and there are so many other places and meals to explore.