Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kien Giang

Thursday August 5th 2010
Kien Giang, K & S Plaza, Charlotte Pike, Nashville, TN

My introduction to it was not in Philadelphia, but it was there that I ventured into the world of Pho. Ventured so deep in fact that eventually it became what I would classify as a habit. Trips quickly became bi-weekly, indulging in peaceful silence over a spa in a bowl. A hot and therapeutic food, the edible equivalent of hitting the steam room after getting a back massage with one of those absurd mud masks on. Cleansing. If I’d ever gone as far as to complete any type of exercise routine, I’d expect a rewarding feeling to follow, a feeling identical to the one experienced post Pho completion. Pho Ha in South Philly really was almost the sole thing that made moving to Nashville sound like a bad idea. How could we abandon it? What would we do without it? Research was done into the availability and quality of Pho in Nashville before a serious decision was made.

Kien Giang is in an elevated Asian themed shopping center on Charlotte Ave, not too far from my house. Of course we didn’t know how far it was from our house at first, because we ate there pretty much upon arrival in town, before a house had been secured. They call it prioritizing. With hopes set high, very high, I can only describe that visit as ‘sad’. I received a small bowl of Pho, truly small, not the cauldrons I was used to, with a murky broth, heavier flavors, overseasoned, and with skimpy portions. I’d had happier days. My desired feeling of elation was never achieved and continued to go unsatisfied for over one month, while my withdrawl symptoms grew in intensity, refusing to subsist.
A second chance was given. I ordered the large chicken Pho, a pair of vegetable spring rolls to share, and a Tiger Beer just to have some sort of consolation in the event I was again treated to a disappointment. I admired the decor: A wall mirror with a black outline of the New York City skyline, Twin Towers right in the center, with the dark silhouette of a Panther crossing in front of it all. Painfully visible bold numerals fastened to the walls next to each table, making it clear to everyone, the table numbering system they had put into place. And a television, broadcasting the show ‘Wipeout’.

After a slightly longer wait than expected (not to give them too hard a time, there was only one waiter after all), the Pho was finally delivered. Cautiously, apprehensively, I investigated the bowl. The chopsticks were sent in first for a quick probing of the contents. I brought the noodle nest up to the surface for closer inspection, shaking free a few trapped chunks of meat in the process. The portions looked alright, the broth was considerably clearer than before. Spoon in hand I went in for a taste, nervously expecting a salty, overly bouilloned liquid, begging for a re-heating. But then I found myself going back for a third taste, a fourth, until I was sucking down noodles and mixing in Sriracha just like I’d remembered. And the Tiger beer, what a treat. Beer and Pho is a combination I wasn’t used to with the liquor laws in Pennsylvania being so old fashioned and all, but if you think about it, it’s pretty obvious they’re going to go well together. The finer things usually do.
From what it looks like I’d caught them on an off day before. No one was really eating in there, the employees were all sitting around watching TV, the food sucked, and now it was pretty busy, the Pho was good. Now it ain’t no Pho Ha, but it’s an acceptable substitute that with time I’m sure I’ll learn to love just as much, but maybe in a different way.

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