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Woken up in garbled sweats, wondering if today is the day that i'll find a salvational bowl of Pho, more often than not disappointed by a hundred promises and only a handful of deliveries. Christina at Den Bar had overheard me talking about my love for Pho and Ramen, and interrupted to excitedly detail the existence of a hidden pho bar on the outskirts of Odesa, in an area surely no travellers trod. In a small hallway of a junk-market a 20 minute drive from the pretty downtown, I took it upon myself to hunt it out.
I'll admit, I walked wrong, and ended up in identical hallways of plastic buckets and electrical wires, shopkeepers staring at me in disbelief at what my intentions were. I finally realised where the hallway was and climbed the steps with my heart pumping harder in the anticipation of food. The tiny Vietnamese shop, with it's kitchen to the left, and small dining room opposite, smelt promising. A simmering pot of broth illuminated the neighbouring airspace with foreign invasions. A small man jumped up at the sight of me arriving, and scrambled to wipe off a table and prepare a chair. He spoke limited English, but I managed to order a Pho through the window to the smiling/curious cooks.
One of the ladies was from Hanoi, so my mind began to wander at the thought of a proper bowl of delicately spiced broth, slippery noodles and fresh herbs. I found a hiding place in the back and took out my camera waiting whilst tapping my fingers.
Waves of happiness shook through me, sitting in that garish, bizarre room in a side-alley of Odesa, sipping a deliciously prepared broth, decent noodles, and greens to add some bite. The addition of an egg was something I had never encountered before, but it could hardly ruin most dishes. When restaurants have their own concoctions of chilli sauce laid out in plastic jars, you have to tip your hat. It added a fiery bite to the soup around the half-way point where tastes muddle and become slightly muted.
The hunt for ramen or pho in random corners of the globe, has perhaps never been stranger, but this was solid proof that all you need are a couple of people with solid recipes and the chance to sell them to the world. Bravo to these two wonderful women, for making my day, and creating perhaps the best bowl of Pho in the former Soviet haunts.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"