My phở-llegences may be changing. The last two times I went Phở Rainier the broth has been spectacular. Both Phở Rainier and Phở Bắc are within spitting distance from my house. I’m just going to keep eating at both places until I arrive at a definitive answer.
When my phở arrives, I put in all the jalapeños; all the basil, ripped, and half the sprouts. I leave the lime for later.
There’s no music piped in at Phở Rainier.
To my right there was a Chinese dad reading the paper, and his two young daughters in t-shirts sitting across from him, reading the other side of his paper, and asking curiosly…”what does it mean that Gary Locke is the envoy to China?” But when their phở arrives, talking stops and all you hear from them is some loud, satisfying slurping. They are the biggest, happiest slurpers in the restaurant; I am a distant second, and everyone else eats quietly.
And I mean quietly. No talking. There are two vietnamese men, sitting alone at separate tables. One has ordered rice and a pork chop. The other has ordered pho with his beef draped along the side of the bowl, so that it stays raw until he mixes it in.
My broth has cooled to the point that it’s no longer cooking. I pull out the jalapeños, which are now visibly cooked, dump in the rest of the sprouts. Then I squeeze in the lime and give it a stir. The lime changes the chemistry of the broth; it’s a whole new taste experience.
Two women sit in front of me, one is a Vietnamese lady, and her friend is an African American lady with an infant who is silent. In fact I didn’t know there was a baby there until her mama lifted her up, and the Vietnamese lady started cooing at her. That lasted about 10 seconds, and then they put the baby back down and went back to eating silently.
Behind me there are some mexicans, quietly swearing up a storm, and fumbling through the silverware on the table for the perfect fork. I’m glad they’re behind me, because watching someone eat phở with a fork is a tangled mess that often degenerates to fingers-on-noodles. Their phở arrives, and then they are quiet too.
Outside, the bright sunshine is streaming into the street; the sky is clear and blue, and the trees wave gently in the breeze.