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Pho Thit Cho 2010-12-19

by foodbitch 19. December 2010 20:34

delicious dog meat brunchOur friction with Vietnam wasn’t born of commies or Koreas but the fact that we consider our best friends they consider lunch. And for the first time, into this taboo breach, comes a place where the palefaces can sample the tastiest of doggies right here on Argyle street. So good, the eponymous bag won’t be needed.

One of the funniest phobias in western travel is going out for some pho and getting dog in place of cow. All silliness aside, canine meat is a rare delicacy in Vietnamese cuisine and carries a steep premium in price. The chances of ordering beef (bo) pho and “accidentally” getting fluffy is about as likely as ordering a Whopper and accidentally getting prime rib. Thit Cho (dog) is clearly marked and mightily expensive. So go occupy your neuroses with equally unlikely things like getting in shape next year. However, if you do wish to push the envelope of taste into this forbidden delicacy, you no longer need to go to north Vietnam.

Other than its name, Pho Thit Cho reveals no clues about the tasty tenderness within the traditional-looking storefront. And as a paleface, you would be hard-pressed to see any mention of your furry friends on the menu. Unless, of course, you ask. In Vietnamese. And then, like choosing the red pill, you are plunged headfirst into a rabbit-hole of pure delight. Today’s special was the Afghan Sheepdog which, due to its mix of Afghan Hound and Belgian Sheepdog, does not carry the same price premium as the purebreds. Even so, if the American Bull Mastiff is Cristal, the Afghan Sheepdog is Veuve which was fine for my novice self. Prices are strangely not displayed for specials so don’t be afraid to ask unless you want to be surprised with a 4-figure bill. Tough economic times have caught many former dog-lovers without sufficient funds to care for larger pets so Pho Thit Cho happily pays the market price for poorly-tended animals, fattens them up and processes them with all respect and ritual due them. The kitchen table offers full view of the preparation but the actual kill is performed elsewhere. I guess America is still too squeamish for that little link in the food chain especially since dogs put up quite a fight – nothing like the bovine passivity we see in all the PETA videos.

Pho Thit Cho means literally: dog soup. When ordering the entire animal (suggested for groups of 4 or more) one can choose to have the paws and jawbone cooked in the broth or wok-seared and served alongside. We opted for the latter and nibbled tasty foot-pad meat with generous pours of rice wine. It’s definitely not for the faint of palate but after 6 shots of 50 proof rice wine, you’ll cherish every morsel you can pick from in between the toes. The jaw meat was not as tender as say, hamachi jaw and if you like your pork ribs falling from the meat you definitely won’t like it. I, however, like to gnaw and work for mine and therefore found myself at home.

If sufficient notice is given, the kitchen can create some lovely dog-blood sausage. This is done by stuffing the blood-brain mixture (something so carefully avoided in a vertebrate’s life) back into the dog’s intestinal lining to create a flavor unlike any other you will ever taste. Pork blood sausage is nothing in comparison. Indeed, when tied off with simmered tendons, the snap of the intestinal casing can release a flavor so intense that whatever praise the dog had lacked in life can easily be given in its final moments in the state of matter. A unique take on “hot dog” to be sure.

In conclusion, dog meat is indeed very good. In either pho-style soup, in sausage or wok-seared. It compares to very rare venison and the torched skin reminded me of lean bacon. Don’t let squeamishness stop you from sampling this delicacy. Remember that all earthly creatures are here for our entertainment or consumption. In Vietnam they live in dog farms. Here, rather than be turned loose to starve on the street, they create human jobs and fill human bellies. And I promise you that after enough rice wine, you won’t give two flocks about it. Instead, the next time your friends ask what you did on Friday night, you’ll tell them you took Fluffy for a Wok.






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Tocco 2010-12-06

by foodbitch 6. December 2010 14:40

An interval of 14 months separated our first Tocco dinner from the second. A shameful length of time. Tocco is as good today, well into its twilight, as it was when it was full of youth and life. Go there now, before the kitchen rests in peace.

Comebacks in the biz of restaurants are few and insufficient. Their demise can be quick and sudden or slow and painful. But no matter how slow the end, once the creep of death takes root, almost nothing can steer the ship away from iceberg. Tocco will not be with us very long but instead of singing it a lullaby, you should celebrate by going to have one of the tastiest Italian meals you’ll ever have. It’s not just pasta. For $16 you will enjoy a mound of Antipasta Rustico with piles of prosciutto, walnuts, greens and cheeses. The Margherita pizza is bit below Pane Caldo but only just a bit. And that’s like saying someone is almost as good as Michael Jordan. Not a bad league from which to draw comparison. The fish of the day was sea bass that was so perfect that Tower Bar in West Hollywood could take a lesson in preparation. And the pasta – one of the city’s finest. Homemade delight safely in league with Pane Caldo and Spiaggia. Get the Pappard Bisamzio. You’ll thank me.

Every earthly thing has a beginning and an end. Endings make us feel uncomfortable so we rarely look for signs of them. With humans, we may not notice the hangover that takes two days to fade. Forgive the forehead’s encroachment on a healthy hairline. Not notice the slowing speed of motion, thought and speech. What else but self-delusion can justify driving cars into senility? And so with restaurants, non-essential services are the first cuts. Valet parking and dedicated coat-checks have already seen extinction. Next came acceptance of American Express because the volume simply didn’t justify the extra 1% in service fees. Next on the chopping block will come bar-backs and bus service until finally, the experience becomes as unpleasant for the owners as it is for diners and, the doors close for the last time. Like a star emitting its last photon. But Tocco deserves an encore. Go help make its death a supernova rather implosion. You won’t have to wait for reservations.






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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me: mealschpeal@gmail.com.

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