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Pho Hoa – Embarcadero Center

December 1, 2005

San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center now houses one of the latest branches of the huge Pho Hoa chain. These restaurants never offer great pho, but they nonetheless vary quite a bit, in terms of quality. Unfortunately, the new Embarcadero Center location is probably one of the worst we’ve been to, in addition to one of the most expensive. If you scroll down to the bottom of this review, you’ll see the cost is rated as a borderline $$. Unfortunately, this is not a typo. Embarcadero Center’s Pho Hoa does indeed charge almost eight dollars – eight dollars!! – for a regular bowl of pho. The picture below proves that this is no joke:

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Sorry about the poor, blurry quality of the last photo. We think it’s probably due to the fact we were shaking with outrage at the prices. At most pho joints, one could practically order two bowls of pho for the same price. The prices here are probably a direct reflection of their rather swanky (for pho) digs,

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not to mention the high rents charged by Boston Properties for coveted square footage in Embarcadero Center. Unfortunately, the extra cost doesn’t seem to have contributed to the food quality at all, as the fare here is below average. Actually, we ordered a hot and sour seafood pho, but we didn’t get hot and sour; instead, we received a poor imitation of a standard broth. The soup base was flat, uninspired, and generally unimpressive, while the noodles were so unevenly cooked that the combating textures had a jarring effect on the tongue. This was by far the worst bowl of pho we’ve had in recent memory. It wasn’t authentic, but this is to be expected from a member of the Pho Hoa chain. Nonetheless, better (and cheaper) pho can be found even at other Pho Hoa chain restaurants – and one can sample even richer and more flavorful pho at one of the Bay Area’s more authentic Vietnamese restaurants. For your enjoyment, here are pictures of the soups we (Short Exact and dining companion) ordered:

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It is well-known that attentive, courteous service is not the hallmark of the typical pho joint. Pho Hoa Embarcadero Center, however, brings lack-of-service to a whole new level: when you order your bowl of pho here, you get a complimentary side dish of attitude. Short Exact and our dining companion were actually having a conversation during this meal – so the length of the meal took somewhat longer than it would’ve if we had just kept only to eating, without any talking. As were leaving, the restaurant staff felt the necessity to point this out to us, by remarking, “Well, that certainly took you a long time!” For context: the restaurant was still at least 45 minutes away from closing time when we left, and it was almost empty, so it wasn’t as though we were using a precious table that another customer was waiting to use.

We suppose that daytime workers in Embarcadero Center and the nearby office towers might find Pho Hoa an adequate place to get lunch. All in all, though, the strange experiment of transplanting pho into corporate surroundings was not successful. If you want to have a truly memorable pho experience, we suggest heading elsewhere. But stay tuned: before you know it, we will probably have many-a-post for superior pho joints for you to try — brought to you by Short Exact.

RATING:

COST:

Three Embarcadero Center (street level)
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.399.9099
Hours: Everyday, 8:00 am – 10:00 pm.

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Neighborhood: Financial District

How to get there: This restaurant is in a very transit-rich area, served by Muni lines 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 21, 31, 38, 41, 71, F, J, K, L, M, N, T, and the California Street cable car line. BART and Muni Metro riders should use Embarcadero Station.

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2 comments

  1. Pho for yuppies. The food is bland and expensive for Pho. The service or lack thereof is terrible. After you are done eating you need to get in a long line to pay your bill. Some of the best Pho places in San Francisco are in the Terderloin and for 1/3 of the price and much better quality. Avoid this place.


  2. Thankfully, when my friend and I went here, it was at night and no one was around, so there was no line to pay for the bill. Other than that, as you can tell from the 1-star rating, I’m in complete agreement with you, Loren.

    The Tenderloin has some good pho spots, but even some of the really good Vietnamese spots will sometimes have fairly average pho, so you definitely have to ferret out the good items at each place. There are a number of good spots dotting the west side of San Francisco, and in Oakland as well. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll even get around to posting about them. 🙂



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