BEST PHO RESTAURANT: THE ONESZ IN CATONSVILLE
As the ancient war-philosophers said, know thine enemy. The enemy of this paper is unrighteousness. What is this in the context of dining? It is restaurants that use hype rather than ingredients, sub-contracting to "reefer-truckers" rather than making an effort to go out and forage locally. In short, our enemy is a restaurant with an ego-complex.
The autumnal mowing down of enemies was known best by Mao, who's favorite season was Fall, because of all the cleaning away of life-scum. The campaign-pogrom-idea of "letting the thousand weed-seeds germinate, then plowing the field", became a standard motif in Post-Maoist China.
So we go into choosing the best Pho restaurant with great trepidation. Best not to let a restaurant become so hubritic and full of itself, that it goes and gets decadant, allowing the broth, man it's the broth, to fall into ruins. This is the autumnal cycle of Pho restaurants, get famous, then fall to the sickle again in sloppy brothing.
The best Pho restaurant is the one in Catonsville, past the Hon. Don't go there. Let the natives enjoy their stainless steel bowls of fresh ingredients, discussing simple, Vietnamese pleasantries. Don't make this Pho restaurant have to stock your highly-hopped, dog-themed beers. It's better in a post-Maoist sense to try to see some reason here, to not plow them into the ground.
Actually, do go there. That's what made California great, is the blend of hipsters and Asians. Any noodle house in "San Fran" will have a wide array of funky-dunk beers. Or even look at the success, as a franchise, of "California Pizza Kitchen"-- i remember as a kid, looking at the menu, and immediately homing in on "Peking Duck Pizza", and salivating at the thought of a nice crust, plum sauce (!) and greasy crunchy duck with fresh leekslivers, roasted in a hot brick oven.
That's what might save us from this endless Mao-ist cycle of pump up the restaurant and let them deflate, all the while spewing fowl anise juice that has not been correctly blended with the other 8 spices that go into a Pho bowl. We don't need the seasonal aesthetic anymore in critical restauranteering. Rather, something meta-seasonal, or perhaps shall we say Californian, may be the solution here. Allowing the seeds to germinate, get famous, appropriate hipsterdom, and fully culturate into a thriving, fusion restaurant, in a post-modern perpetuity of hyper-color plus simple Asian ingredients, with hipsters as "lead programmers" of farmers' marketeering.
-Peter B, for the City Paper (not)