There is much disappointment to be experienced at Pho Hana Restaurant. Be that it is probably one of the well-decorated themed restaurants in Palisades Park, I can't say that the Phở can complement it. It really disheartens me to have to give such a horrid review to a well-respected noodle dish, but there's only a few people that can be blamed for such. If you don't want to go through the trouble of reading the negative details to follow, then "find somewhere else for some real Phở" is all I have to tell you.
Phở - A respected Vietnamese noodle soup that is often served by street vendors and restaurants alike. It's a dish one can go back to basics with - meat or seafood, bean sprouts, cilantro and more as the chef would desire to impress the customer with. Fragrant when served, wholesome when slurped, soothing when the soup is sipped and flavourful to the last bite - these elements make Phở one of the most beautiful dishes to come from Vietnam.
With that being said, you'll find (if you're lucky) around 10% of the previous paragraph true at Pho Hana Restaurant. What my friend and I had was a plain broth, noodles that didn't play well with the meaty flavour that was also supposed to be a part of the broth, no uniqueness and no end to disappointment. The "soup" was a collection of whatever the beef let out and nothing more, which greatly affected the noodles that couldn't enhance the broth any further. Only to further the disappointment, it only felt like a waste to throw the bean sprouts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime in there since the plain broth drowned those flavours - might as well have disposed of them. The sole positive is the Banchan (small dishes served before the meal,) which was small but far better than the things that followed.
Please do not misread what I have just stated - This is probably one of the worst Phở I've ever had in the Eastern U.S. Not even the Sriracha sauce, Hoisin Sauce and the Hot Chili sauce provided was able to save the dish from shame.
My friend and I also went ahead and ordered the Summer Roll, or a Vietnamese Spring Roll. I honestly don't want to spend a lot of time on this appetiser, so let's leave it at this - It would have been better if the sauce didn't taste and feel like water decorated with "things."
I have to be brutally honest - it doesn't look bad in the interior, but it's wasted effort when the prime dish, Phở, weighs so dearly and can end up being a disappointment overall. I'm indifferent about the Sino/Korean decor is working out for their locals, but it isn't impressing everyone.
I really dislike wrapping things up negatively, but, sadly, I have some concerns about the service provided. To keep things in a sequential flow, I'll point something out about the menu - probably the third thing (aside from exterior and interior first impressions) that will need to win your impression. The menu, along with other signage of "Lunch Specials" and other items, contains some Korean listings without translations. I opted not to speak out about that because Phở was the first (and, now, the last thing of interest.)
Last but not least, I cannot leave praises and concerns of the people that make up the restaurant undone. The gentleman and woman who served me and my friend were both attentive to our needs. The gentleman was quite friendly and didn't skip a beat, but the woman was a bit rushed (and not in a great way.) In a way, I'm more relieved to have them serve me than to ever have to meet the chef that let such dishes come out of the kitchen (or maybe one of them is the chef - not sure, but it's better I don't know at all.)
All in all, this place and real good Phở don't go along so well. This isn't the place I'd return to if I must have Phở or Vietnamese food in general. There's a memorable or nostalgic (for the Vietnamese native) taste that Phở gives from start to finish and Pho Hana doesn't serve that up. I completely understand that my expectations are too high, but even the baseline that can legitimately recognise the dish as Phở could not be met at this place.
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