Disappointing Vietnamese Dinner At Pho Dau Bo, Hamilton.

Pho Dau Bo (2)

This is NOT the dish I had the issue with – this is the replacement.

It pains me to write this today as we we’re HUGE fans of Pho Dau Bo as you may know, if you’ve been following this website and my #Gallivanting video series on YouTube. Pho Dau Bo had a reserved spot among my favorite restaurants in Hamilton, since it used to be a sort of private dad and daughter time for Tehya and myself. Whenever we wanted a break from the normal routine of the hectic lives we live, we always found comfort in one of their delightful plates of Vietnamese offerings.

My love affair with Pho Dau Bo started back when I was still married and my then wife and I would sneak off for a quick lunch or late dinner.  She was a pretty boring diner, so seeing her tuck into a plate of steaming Pad Thai topped with extra peanuts was kinda attractive (yea, call me weird).  After things ended with her and I, I found a new partner in crime in Tehya. Basically we’ve been dining at Pho Dau Bo (all 3 Hamilton locations) the past 5 years or so.

I’m writing this post to follow-up on the previous two posts we’ve done Pho Dau Bo Restaurant, Upper James Hamilton and Review Of Pho Dau Bo Vietnamese Restaurant Hamilton for two reasons. I connect with about 1 million people globally every month via my websites, YouTube Channels and through the different social media platforms I engage, so when I recommend something, I’m basically saying that I endorse such and such. And if you read my piece about the Moral Responsibility of people like myself who blog, vlog or make recommendations to an audience (via social media), I feel I have a responsibility to the dining public to also speak about the ‘bad’ if such occurs.

Please don’t confuse this as an an ego thing or wanting food for free!  However you CAN say, Chris works VERY hard for his $$ and while he continuously supports local businesses by featuring them to his audience, he will not put up with nonsense.

Tehya and I placed our orders, received the customary free kettle of lemon grass tea and moments later we were enjoying our expected starter (our taste-buds demands such a beginning)  – Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Tehya decided on a small beef soup and I thought I’d go back to the original dish I would always order when we first started dining here – the noodles with chicken and shrimp, with the occasional piece bok choi.

After receiving our order and taking a minute of silence for Instagram, it was happy time! While my dish did not look as familiar as it once did, it was confirmed after the first few bites. The noodles were overcooked and soggy from being over-sauced. In the middle of the plate where most of the noodles were piled, they clumped together like wet soccer (the REAL football) socks in a heap. I CAN confirm that this is NOT how this dish would normally be served at Pho Dau Bo – I’ve had it ALL 3 locations, several times.

Here’s what happened after…

Me: Excuse me (right hand up to get her attention)

Young Lady : Yes?

Me: I’m not overly happy with this dish, it’s soggy and the noodles are over-cooked.

Young Lady: Puzzled/Scared look on her face.. “ok?”

Me: Repeats “Soggy and over cooked”.. I tried my best to be happy with this, but I honestly can’t eat this. This is not how I know this dish to be. I’ve ordered it several times.

Young Lady: I’ll be back, one second!

Me: Wait..take this with you? I had to ask her to take it 2 times

Young Lady: Walks to the cashier area, which overlooks the kitchen and we could hear them speaking (foreign language), then she comes back to us with the plate in hand and places it in front of me. Mentions that the cook said there’s nothing he could do.

Me: Why are you placing this in front of me?

Young Lady: The cook said this is how it’s supposed to be and he can’t do anything about it.

Me: No, I’ve had this several times here. We are regular customers. You can take it back as I no longer want it.

Young Lady: Takes it hesitantly and goes back to the gathering at the cashiers area. Then she comes back with the plate in her hand.. followed by an older woman.

Older Woman: What is wrong? (I explained as I did above). She then says.. this is how the dish is done and we can’t do anything about it.

Me: I beg to differ, I’m a regular customer here (Yes, she’s served us several times before) and I know for a fact that this is not what you usually serve me when I order this.

Older Lady (young lady scolded in the corner) So you’ve been here before? Repeats a few times “you’ve been here before?”

Me: Yes, we’re here at least two times a month.

Older Lady: (this is the funny part).. well when you come here you always order #480 (image above).

Me: WAIT! So first you ask me if I’ve ever been here before.. but now you can specifically tell me what I ordered the last time?

Older Lady: Joined by a gentleman (assume is the owner) and he too says, you always get #480.

Me: One more time, we are regular customers and while I do order #480 regularly, I’ve also ordered this dish a FEW times before. Further, please take this away as I will not eat it.

  • They all go back to the cashier’s area, consult, then comes back – still holding the plate in hand

Older Lady:  Places the plate back on the table in front of me (been a few mins now back and forth with her.. but they expect that I still eat it?) When they realize I was insistent that I would not eat it. “Would you like something else?”

Me: Yes, I’ll have the #480.

Three minutes later the older lady arrives with the new order and while I ate it and kept my mouth shut. I was also disappointed. If you refer to any of the posts I mentioned (click on the links) above or the YouTube videos I’ve done, you’ll notice that a dish which usually contains about 6 shrimp and is usually loaded with cubed bells peppers, this one was bare of the items I mentioned. The following image will confirm that there were only 3 shrimp and about the same amount of bell peppers.

Pho Dau Bo (1)

Steamed Rice with Grilled Beef, Shrimp, Lemongrass & Red/Green Peppers

Where’s the consistency? I know better! (there was a pile of pickled carrots though)

We asked for a takeout container for Tehya’s soup as she wasn’t in the mood to continue eating and as they packed it away for her, I went to the cashiers area to pay. I didn’t expect to get my meal for free, though that is the norm when dining out in Hamilton when the kitchen is not on point. However having to pay the price of the 2nd dish (which was more expensive than what I originally ordered) kinda upset me. You forced me to eat something I didn’t go with the intention of eating, then rather that just charge me for what I originally ordered, you made sure you charged me for the more expensive dish.

I think it was Danny Meyer who wrote in his book Setting The Table about the fact that diners ‘choose’ your restaurant from the MANY different options they have, so it’s important you try your best to make it the experience they deserve and not just about food.  Pho Dau Bo failed on so many levels! Forget the clumped-soggy noodles for a second, the manner in which you dealt with my displeasure was unprofessional. I had to go through 3 layers of your staff to finally get the option of selecting another item off the menu. All this time your other patrons were also subjected to the fiasco.

Pho Dau Bo
15 Cannon St. East Unit #2
Hamilton, ON
p.905-525-0100
e. info@pho-daubo.ca

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this experience and I ask you.. Would You be Upset! Did I have the moral responsibility to speak about this experience knowing that I’ve praised them and their food in the past?

Leave your comments below (please). Unfortunately we didn’t take any pics of the wet socks soggy noodles.

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25 Comments

  1. Lisia
    September 22, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    Chris if I were you, that would be my last visit there. Ps Am sure you can make it much better than they can. Just find a new father daughter place

  2. September 22, 2016 / 9:00 pm

    Yes, You should be upset.
    I had a similar incident in a Chinese restaurant in downtown Calgary. I had eaten there before and enjoyed it. Mind you we were with a Chinese friend and a menu in Chinese was used. When we entered the restaurant, I saw a plate with a whole steamed pickerel with Black Bean sauce being served. I was most excited as it was a popular dish that I had in a Chinese Restaurant in Winnipeg. I couldn’t believe my luck as I grew up on fish and love it! Sadly, I could smell the fish as it approached my table.. I did taste it, one bite. It took a long time to catch the attention of anybody as I know I was being ignored. Finally I was able to asked the waitress to take it away as it was stinky, which she didn’t! Then a similar conversation with different levels of authority occurred, while the”stinky” fish sat on our table. She finally took the fish away and when the bill came, it was still on! The conversation again at the till was that it was the way the fish should be and taste given the method of preparation, and if I didn’t want a strong smelling fish, I should have order BBQ fish. With that last comment, I waited him out until the cost of fish was removed of the bill. Sadly we have not been back to this restaurant again!

  3. Laura Bolden
    September 22, 2016 / 9:10 pm

    I appreciate the post I agree with you wholeheartedly about letting people know about your experience I’m sorry that happened to you and you hate when you like it please and then for some reason it goes awry you weren’t being rude or unruly you were just trying to let them know that the food was not up to par stick to your guns and keep cooking the way you do love the recipes the videos and the way u make your audience feel like we know you. Peace & Blessings to you and your family!!

    • Genevieve
      March 14, 2017 / 7:28 pm

      I understand the disappointment. Been there. However, without prejudice, I harken to the color of our skin. They work hand over heel to accommodate the Caucasians but figure they can throw anything in front of us and we’ll eat without complaint. You shocked ’em alright. I agree you stood your ground, but I’d have left them standing with that plate in hand. If you don’t speak up, they’ll never change their behavior.

      P.S. If they had changed ownership, I might understand, but management is familiar with #480, no excuse.

  4. Robyn
    September 22, 2016 / 9:40 pm

    Yes, you should be upset! That is not how a customer should be treated. I would never return. So many other restaurants with great food, staff and owners.

  5. Petrina
    September 22, 2016 / 11:05 pm

    I agree with you Chris!! I definitely would not have even eaten anything else and would have walked out of their establishment. Unfortunately they showed you their true colors when they chose not to accommodate you until after you went through three levels of personnel and also disregarded that you are A loyal customer. I too would be disappointed and might not visit them either again or for a long time. Plus asians tend to have a long memory. They took long to remember that you are a loyal customer and they are short to remember that you didn’t want to eat what they served you on your last visit. I would find a new fav for now or permanently. Happy eating and we look forward to all your yummy recipes!!!🤗

  6. Marlene
    September 22, 2016 / 11:55 pm

    What horrific customer service. It could be a new (obviously prideless) chef and the replacement dish evidence of a cutback on ingredients for cost-effectiveness or maybe just spite.
    A Japanese restaurant we frequent has cut back on the size of the already small salad served with their luncheon sushi (with now only a dab of horseradish and a couple of pieces of pickled ginger) and I intend to say something next time because it has definitely dimmed their bright star for me.
    You gave the Vietnamese establishment every opportunity to correct their improperly cooked dish. It doesn’t matter if you had a history with the place or were a first-time diner. The dish was inedible and they should have replaced it. Maybe the noodles were precooked, turned to glue when cold and they knew a second plate would have been a replica of the first. Patrons with certain health issues could have choked on the glue-like mass. Kudos to you for staying because I would have left and, yes, you are correct in updating your readers on the obvious decline on every level of a former recommended restaurant.

  7. JEAN GORDON
    September 23, 2016 / 12:00 am

    Hello Chris:
    I am so sorry that you had to go through such rudeness, but that is the way that most of these people in restaurants behave when they are wrong. You did not do anything wrong. If you are not pleased with something, you are supposed to talk to them about it. You did exactly what I would have done and have done. You are the one paying for what you order, so I do not see the point in them being sarcastic about the mistake that they made and still charge you for it. Keep up the good work and do not let people take advantage of you. I know that you will and that you won’t. Sorry to know that you and your wife are no longer together. Take good care of Tehya and yourself and keep on enjoying the Father/Daughter relationship. God bless.
    Love,
    Jean Gordon.

  8. Christa Deon Wimberly
    September 23, 2016 / 12:07 am

    You did not only what was right, it was expected as a paying patron. I am not afraid of calling out poor service. I have come to spend my money and the least you can do is respect me for helping to pay your salary. I would blast this on Yelp and any other social media outlet.
    Hey I am petty like that
    #thecustomerisalwaysright

  9. Shontel
    September 23, 2016 / 12:34 am

    You most definitely did NOTHING wrong. You pay for a service and you expect to get that service. If they did not deliver to your expectations, you have all rights to be upset, put them on blast and warn others. That was so tasteless of them.

  10. cava
    September 23, 2016 / 12:48 am

    Yes, you have every right to share this experience as you do have a responsibility to your followers. We do value and trust your culinary experience. You did very well because I’m not sure it would’ve ended as well as yours did ahahahahah!!

  11. Moo Goo Gai Pan
    September 23, 2016 / 1:03 am

    I was unaware that you were/are a ‘celebrity chef’ Chris. What culinary chefs’ training institution did you graduate from again? Steups! You no like, you no come back!

    • chris
      September 23, 2016 / 2:05 am

      Me thinks me don’t need a paper to tell me what I can and cannot do. Roll with me and you’ll see why I say “Celebrity”.. doh hate hoss. Over 600 documented recipes, A Gourmand Award, featured in traditional media across the globe and speaking about globe.. 1 MILLION people around the world come to me every month to LEARN how to cook. There are graduates from Le Cordon Bleu who can’t say any of the same. I’m sure your peeps in Georgia luv some CaribbeanPot.com

    • Cynthia
      September 23, 2016 / 8:27 am

      What a rude response! I’m sure even animals can do better than this. Celebrity chef or not, he was a loyal and PAYING customer for years. So he is used to certain standard even in your own restaurants, so you can’t siimply brush him off with such lame excuse. Thanks anyway for letting all potential paying customers know what they can expect from your celebrity restaurants!

  12. Father Harold Imamshah
    September 23, 2016 / 2:29 am

    How shocking that they were so defensive and would not take responsibility for a badly prepared dish and still charged you the more epensive price!
    Like other writers, with any future disappointment, I would leave immediately after not getting any satisfaction. You were not rude, they were.
    Even in Trinidad, I have refused replacement dishes. In one case, after 3 different disappointments, I kept my promise and have never returned.

  13. Charles Young
    September 23, 2016 / 4:38 am

    Chris I have been unsatisfied with Pho Dau Bo for a while now. I now refuse to eat at any of their restaurants although I live really close to the one in Stoney Creek. I would rather drive to Made Pho You or my all time favorite Binh Minh. I’m tired of arguing with them over botched orders or pathetic portions and presentation.

  14. Franka McNeil
    September 23, 2016 / 5:00 am

    You were right to complain. This is a restaurant that you frequently visit and have enjoyed their food in the past. You are entitled to have good service and food and their standards were deplorable. They were trying to browbeat you to eat their sub-standard meal. In your position I would inform all my acquaintances of the bad service and awful food and also boycott their restaurants in the future. It is stupendous that they also had the audacity to charge you for the appalling meal.

  15. Susan
    September 23, 2016 / 11:25 am

    I had become a frequent complainer to corporate offices about really bad fast food meals. They were cheap meals but goodness they didn’t have to be that bad because they were cheap. i’m part Chinese so I’m not against them, they don’t speak good English and I don’t expect good customer there at all. Typically if I’m not happy and that’s often lately I just don’t return. If the food is getting poor, it’ll take care of itself, people will stop eating there so much.
    Maybe I’ve mellowed, they could just gave had a bad day, a new chef, they definitely had a bad attitude. You have to go by your conscience. You’re a reviewer so that’s different. I appreciate knowing what’s good and what isn’t. But for me I let it go now, that’s also somebody’s reputation job etc. That’s just me

  16. Barb
    September 23, 2016 / 4:08 pm

    I only wish I had your guts. I was raised “good girls don’t make waves”. I have eaten uncooked pancakes, wet runny eggs, and many other things that were just plain wrong but I never sent them back. I am taking notes! Next time I’m served a bad meal, I will remember you.

    • LC
      November 15, 2016 / 4:13 pm

      Wet runny eggs….gross, and a good way to get salmonella (LOL).

  17. Bernice Martin
    September 23, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    Well for sure no one should have gotten a tip that day.

  18. Daisy
    September 25, 2016 / 2:31 am

    Dear Chris,
    It sounds like you were the very soul of propriety and restraint. I’m sorry your outing with your daughter was sort of ruined by that experience. But what I’m wondering is, how on earth did this happen? Maybe they had a different chef? In any case, they should have just ‘fessed up. It’s very disturbing. I would be way too chicken to speak up. So I think you were performing [another] a great service to the public.
    Daisy

  19. Kyle
    September 30, 2016 / 12:54 am

    Sorry to hear about that experience. If you’re ever in Milton you should check out, “Pho Milton”. The food has always been great and so is the service.

  20. Lela
    October 16, 2016 / 3:53 am

    I would’ve definitely been upset. Such a shame they did not think to provide better customer service. Sorry about your experience and thank you for letting your viewers know!

  21. LC
    November 15, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    Chris, if I were you I wouldn’t have ordered anything else there. Especially after you’ve told them that the food wasn’t good. They might have tampered with your new order. If I have to send something back, I just send it back and get my money back and go somewhere else. I don’t need anybody spitting in my food etc…

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