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.
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
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.