I've never quite had a challenge like the one I faced with the noodles at Pho 4 U, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Longwood apparently aimed at the texting segment.
There was something immediately recognizable as different with the noodles in my pho -- number 41 on the menu, with eye round steak, flank and meatball chunks. They were flatter and wider than the noodles you usually see, more like fettuccine than the usual vermicelli-like noodles. And they were quite unchopstickable.
Now, I'm quite proud of my ability to eat just about anything with a chopstick, right down to the smallest lentil. And noodles don't generally present a problem, either, as long as you're not too dainty to do some slurping.
But no sooner would I get a good wad of the wet noodles between my two sticks and begin to lift them from the broth than they'd slip through like so many slippery eels, first one, then five, then the whole kit and kanoodle.
I even tried pushing them onto the white plastic ladle-spoon, adjusting the strands to fit into the spoons bowl. But no, that wouldn't work either.
And too bad because the rest of the soup was excellent. The broth was so light in color that if I didn't know better I'd guess was chicken instead of beef. But the flavors were intense and contemplative, a complex blend of spices and seasonings, even before the addition of the usual accouterments offered on the side -- basil, cilantro, lime, jalapeños, bean sprouts (some of them actually sprouting).
The soup had a rich mouthfeel and an almost buttery note. After my first sip I almost reached for the bottle of sriracha that was on the table, but I stopped as the spiciness that was already in the soup started to show.
I just wish I could have enjoyed it with the noodles.
I also had an order of the Summer Rolls, with the strands of roast pork and the shock of pink shrimp showing through the translucent wrappers.
Pho 4 U occupies the freestanding building that housed Polonia Polish restaurant the past decade. (As I reported here, Polonia closed and attempts to revive it, or at least its concept, in the strip mall behind came to an end recently.) The dining room is about as spartan as they get, and the wood tabletops seem to have had a hard life. But the young man who waited on me was prompt and gracious.
I know what you're thinking: I could have asked for a fork to eat the noodles, but I just couldn't; it would have bruised my chopsticking ego.
So instead I got the rest of the pho to go and ate it with a fork at home where no one could see me.
Pho 4 U is at 750 S. U.S. Highway 17-92, Longwood. It is open lunch and dinner daily. There is no website. The phone number is 407-853-4496.