Phở Sóc Trăng - Kelowna, BC
Phở again? Yes, phở again. I find myself in Kelowna again, it turns out that my schedule has me doing the same loop I just finished. First Okanagan, then the Coast, and back out to Vancouver Island. I feel like I haven't been home for weeks.
After having some okay phở in Chilliwack I figure I’ll try some in Kelowna as well. I didn’t expect to be back in the Okanagan so soon, but here I am. Gorgeous weather, the temperature is about 27 degrees today. Perfect weather for Vietnamese beef noodle soup. There's a few places to choose from, but I start at Phở Sóc Trăng
Phở đặc biệt ($7.95 regular bowl)
The noodles are pre-portioned and stuck in a shape of a bowl used in measuring. The selection of meat, tripe and tendons are scant. The book tripe is sliced into very small, narrow pieces and still there are only about five pieces. The rare slices are okay. I like to have several super thin slices over a few thicker slices. Phở Sóc Trăng cuts them on the thicker side.
I believe that every phở joint has their own secret recipe for the best broth, and each restaurant will have a broth that’s unique to them. True. However, when I tasted this broth I immediately knew something was not quite right. The broth is extremely mild. Well, bland. DL and I discuss what may be the issue; I think it’s a weak chicken broth and not a beef broth. I love the star anise flavours in phở broth and I didn’t get any of that here.
After chatting a bit with our server who assures that "all those Chinese herbs are in there too," she confirms my suspicions. It indeed is a chicken broth “mixed with a beef broth.” Methinks this is cheating. If I ordered phở gà, then sure, chicken broth away, but this is beef noodle soup and it needs to have that hearty beef broth with deep flavour...for me anyways.
Rare Beef, Tripe and Beef Ball Phở ($7.95)
Same issue with broth and tripe here. The noodles are alright once they’re loosened from the bowl-shaped straight jacket.
The garnishes are Thai basil, sprouts, jalapeños, and lemon. I really prefer lime wedges with my beef noodle. What about you?
The space feels like it may have been pub in its former life. The restaurant is up a flight of stairs. I didn’t notice any alternative entrance for patrons that may find stairs to be an issue. The restaurant is clean and the dining area is spacious. The service staff is young, super friendly, and attentive to the trio of tables occupied today.
I do have to applaud the patience and professionalism of the Phở Sóc Trăng staff. In addition to dealing with me questioning their broth, there is a slightly obnoxious regular patron, seated behind me. He makes several eye-roll-inducing comments to the staff. One-liners that, unbeknownst to him, lean more toward the creepy-old-man-variety. I get the sense that this is his regular naive shtick here. I'm sure he thinks he is being endearing, but his comments sound like something the Engineer from Dreamland might say. (Eyeroll.)