As former food editor Eric Hu observed during his quest to find the best pho in town, Shanghai’s pho spread is among the most bipolar of all its foreign options. Some phos have firm, hand-crafted noodles in brawny stocks concocted by simmering a combo of bones and spices for hours. Others have cooked confetti in meek broth whose only meat flavor comes from the pig-tainted tap water that likely forms its base. Unfortunately, Pho Tastic is closer to the latter.
Fits the classy-casual character of Wuding Lu with a sleek, bare layout of two-seaters, beer offerings chalked on a blackboard, and Vietnamese newspapers decorating the walls. Wooden shutters insulate the upstairs space from downstairs, which are connected by a very hairy staircase whose steepness evokes a fire escape. We even saw one roly-poly toddler tumble down the first couple steps before being swooped up by a waitress, and set back in his chair unharmed. Pho Tastic’s best aspect is its staff, who embody the “sweet but razor-sharp” persona typical of Vietnamese service, despite being Chinese.
Pho options entail different combos of raw beef, cooked beef, and beef balls (40-49RMB), all equally bland. The noodles break apart like wet tissue strips and the broth evokes water that had soup from a cup of instant noodles spilled in it.
The pho doesn’t have much backup either. Our green papaya salad was okay but tame, and nothing like the crisp, spicy, and funky compilation of papaya, lime, chili, and fish sauce it’s based on. The fried spring rolls proved greasy, crunchy nothings who’s pork flavor couldn’t break free of its fried dungeon.
Fortunately, Pho Tastic has a decent lineup of Southeast Asian beers including Saigon Beer, Beer Lao, and Myanmar beer (all 25RMB) to wash away the non-flavor.
Now we realize that opening up a restaurant, any restaurant, is a little miracle, and it may seem a shame to come in as a bitter, underpaid critic and stifle an independent voice. But when the dish you’re named after is near-inedible and the sides follow suit, we’re hard-pressed to find good things to say. At least the prices are on point, and the staff well-trained.
Pho Tastic – 1097 Wuding Lu, near Jiaozhou Lu (武定路1097号, 近胶州路). Tel: 151-0213-9241. Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-11pm Mon-Fri.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].