Anyone who knows me would gladly attest to the following: I am not a nice/forgiving/happy/generous/enjoyable-to-be-around human being when I am hungry. This is just fact. I get grumpy. I get hypoglycemic. I swear to whomever I'm with that I'm just going to die. I could substantiate this with a thousand vignettes from childhood and beyond, but I'll leave it up to the imagination of my readers.
Now, on Friday afternoon, I ended up in Manhattan, walking up 6th Avenue, where you ain't bound to find anything worth buying, unless you're really into plastic beads or fresh flowers. This includes anything remotely ingestible. It's a culinary wasteland. I was starting to get my familiar hypoglycemic hand shake, and became immediately convinced that if I did not stop for food RIGHT NOW, I would... well, you get the picture.
My companion did not much care for my theatrics and kept telling me to pick a place, but what was there to pick? A corner bodega? A McDonald's? None of this jived with my "local foods" or "homemade" mantra that I've been espousing since August.
Inevitably, we ended up on 32nd Street, home to Korea Town, commonly referred to by drunks and foodies as K-Town. We were reminded of a place recommended to us by a friend of mine a few months ago, but before we made it I saw signs for Pho32 & Shabu and decided that we need walk no farther: Pho it was.
Pho32 & Shabu specializes in two things: pho (duh), and shabu shabu. Pho is a delicious Vietnamese soup, and Shabu Shabu is this method of cooking wherein a pot of steaming broth is lit on fire before you and you dip assorted things (a.k.a. meat, vegetables, tofu) into this broth until they cook. I opted for pho, since I've never been able to get shabu shabu down.
First, a salad of cabbage and ginger dressing arrived. It was slightly bitter, crisp, salty, perfect. Next, a plate of lime, bean sprouts, shaved green peppers, basil. Finally the soup, a large bowl of beef broth, thin-sliced flank steak cooked rare, beef brisket, rice noodles. I was instructed to spill my plate of stuff into the broth "to taste" (that meant spilling the whole thing in). A condiment caddy displayed sriracha, hoisin, and chili paste. I dumped that in, too. What resulted was a rich, meaty, basil-y, crunchy, chewy, satisfying bowl of stuff. True pho eaters will tell you that tripe is a very important part of the pho experience. But I will tell you that I think tripe is disgusting and I don't like the way it looks like cotton or spun sugar, sitting out on the butcher display in my neighborhood, so I will never order my pho with tripe.
My dining companion ordered great fried chicken potstickers, but I wouldn't go back just for those. I would, however, go back for that soup, which may have been the most transcendent bowl of Asian noodles ever, aside, of course, from those pork-perfect ramen bowls at Ippudo. Slurp, slurp.
Pho32 & Shabu
2 W. 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001