Rating: 6 / 10
I was not expecting a line out the door at 11am, but Helsinki threw me a surprise.
Despite having been closed the day before -when we accidentally stumbled upon Noodle Master- Vibami was very much open at 11am on a cold, windy morning. I shuffled in with my bag in tow, train to catch in an hour, just enough time for some warming broth and a coffee somewhere near the station.
Climbing the steps I was taken aback by the line that had formed, and curled, down the stairs. It was 11am. What was Finland thinking? The ordering system was done at the entrance where people paid and received a table number to head to. I generally dislike places that charge before you eat your food, as it makes it more difficult to deal with situations should the food be under par.
Nevertheless, I ordered my Beef Pho and asked the waiter to seat me far from the madding crowd. Whilst the early noon revellers frolicked in conversation, I cast my mind back to the years before Covid when I would be seated on a plastic stool in HCMC eating a magnificent bowl for under a dollar. Things had changed, but hopefully not for much longer.
I struggle to find decent Pho in Europe and sadly Vibami wasn't the answer. The broth (most important part) was murky and muddled. It didn't have a clear, pure flavour. It felt like it was dull and uninspired. Apart from that there are not huge variables with Pho since most are rice noodles, protein of some kind and herbs. They didn't offer a plate of fresh herbs which generally angers me. I love nothing more than piling in bean sprouts, chilis, a squeeze of lime, some culantro and basil.
Behind me the room heaved in satisfaction. Finnish tongues emptied their bowls and I could only guess they had never had a real Pho before. This was most definitely a Scandinavian adaptation where all the brightness and flavour had been dulled down. If they manage to survive (or even thrive) based on repeat customers, then more power to them, but this is not a Pho I would introduce to someone curious about the dish.
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.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"