For the second day in a row, I found myself in Rockville, and for the second day in a row, I had a bowl of Pho for lunch, this time at Pho Hoa Binh.
Although most pho houses in the area share a common feel, this is about as far away from the well-worn Pho 75 in Langley Park as you can get – it’s squeaky clean, and feels very new even though it’s now a few years old.
Like the day before, I got a large bowl of #1 (Tái, Nạm, Gầu, Gân, Sách (exact same ingredients!), $7.45), a dollar more than I paid in Langley Park.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that when I eat Pho, I’m often going to ingest massive amounts of MSG, and there’s no telling who uses how much, and who doesn’t use it at all (unless they explicitly say so). The soup at Pho Hoa Binh was thin and dilute, with most of the flavor coming on the forepalate, and having very little depth of flavor – there was no comparison between this and the exact same bowl of soup at Pho 75 the day before.
Maybe it was a cumulative effect, or maybe not, but there were the telltale signs of MSG afterwards – tingling lips, and an insatiable thirst beginning a few hours later. From the taste and appearance alone, this broth could have been chicken based, or even vegetable based with beef flavoring (there wasn’t much fat in it, and even the fatty meats didn’t help).
I’ve developed a theory that the more non-Pho items a restaurant serves, the worse their Pho proper tends to be, and that was no exception here. I’ve had worse, but I’ve had a lot better.