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Bear Bites Uncategorized

Bear Bites: Hometown Noodle

Jasper
Our latest episode of Bear Bites took us to Hometown Noodle, a cozy little Vietnamese restaurant known mainly for its pho. It came strongly recommended by Ben, who’s been trying to get me to visit for months now. I finally succumbed to his urgings, which brought us to the small restaurant on a Tuesday night broiling far too hot. Seriously, it was like 90 degrees, at nine, in early May — this is not why I live in California. Can we all agree to keep the actual weather in the rest of the country?
The restaurant itself was comfortably cramped, and most importantly, air-conditioned. There were maybe seven or eight tables in all, with just enough space to maneuver between them without considerable fear of hitting something — and that was with most of the tables unoccupied. I can well imagine a rush hour being hectic, but when we were there it seemed cozier than anything else. The lamps hanging in spiky geometric shapes around the room let off a warm orange glow, and we both felt pleasantly at home as we ordered our meals. I was half-tempted to take a nap. But then, I always am.

Ben
As we walked over to our table, sat down, and got to talking, only one thing was on our minds — the weather. I know, I know, Jasper already mentioned it, but honestly I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that if we’re already hitting low nineties in spring, July and August are going to be absolutely brutal. It could be worse though; we could live in Arizona. Anyway, the point of this being that the air conditioned restaurant was an invaluable escape from the inferno outside. And that was a theme of our meal; throughout our dinner, I noticed that, if nothing else, Hometown Noodle was extremely comfortable. From the dimly-lit snug ambiance to the friendly wait staff and soft chatter of fellow patrons, the air of authenticity which resounded throughout the tiny dining area was indescribably warm and welcoming. As a regular at the restaurant, if I had to pin down one thing (aside from the food, of course) which always keeps me coming back, I would say the atmosphere.

 

I ordered the same thing I always order, a medium number eleven (the classic dishes are popular for a reason), which is a pretty standard pho consisting of a piping hot bowl of beef broth brimming full with rice noodles, beef, and the rubbery lining of a cow’s digestive tract, more glamorously known as tripe, which is possibly my favorite part of the pho. Additionally, Jasper and I ordered a plate of five imperial egg rolls to share, which are essentially fried rolls of goodness stuffed full of ground pork and doused in sweet and sour sauce – they’re indisputably delicious, although they admittedly run a slightly steep price. The food arrived fairly quick, as it always does here, but don’t be deceived by speed – sometimes the best things in life don’t require any patience.

After the food arrived and we rapidly polished off our egg roll appetizers, I began slurping up every drop of pho in the generously sized bowl before me. Before I describe the wonderful eating experience itself, take note that while the pho itself is not spicy, for all my fellow heat-lovers, a bottle of sriracha is perched on every table of the restaurant – It’s probably not correct to dump tablespoons of sriracha into my pho but I can’t resist. The pho was phenomenal, and Hometown Noodle does not hold back on serving size nor on the generous heaps of tender briskets. However, the real star of the show is the broth, absolutely bursting with savory flavors and hints of sharp spices like ginger, cardamom, and cloves. The strings of tripe mingle with broth-soaked noodles to add a surprisingly delectable contrasting texture with each mouthful. Although the bowl was gratuitously sized, especially for a medium, I ravenously lapped up every remaining drop of broth with voracity. To wash down the hearty meal, I sipped on a thai iced tea which, while quite tasty, seemed to consist of more ice than tea much to my chagrin. Regardless, the entire meal was sensational, and I walked out of Hometown Noodle both extremely content and more than sufficiently full.

Jasper
For my first time at Hometown Noodle, I decided to order what was both its speciality and most popular item: the number 11, or the “Combination noodle soup with round steak, well-done brisket, tendon, and tripe.” The service was extremely quick, with the food arriving in under five minutes. Again, the restaurant was mostly empty, so you might have a different experience, but the speed of delivery was definitely a big plus.

As someone who has generally avoided exotic foods, I definitely was slightly leery of the description (tendon? tripe? My Asian family would be ashamed of me, but I generally keep my meat consumption to steak and burgers). For anyone else with similar concerns, let me put them to rest: it was amazing. The steak and brisket was great, and the tendon, incredibly juicy and buttery-tender. The tripe was kind of weird, tasteless and a bit rubbery, but it certainly didn’t detract from the experience and I barely noticed it. They all served as a phenomenal complement to the main focus of the meal: the pho. Each bite of delectable pho marinated in a savory beef broth, be it mixed with smoothly succulent tendon or juicy, flavorful steak, made my mouth water even as I was scooping it up. I simply could not swallow the steaming soup as fast as I wanted.

The servings were massive as well. The medium was more than enough for me, even though I had skipped lunch (thanks, College Board! We love you, and we love your AP tests!), coming in a bowl sharing the approximate dimensions of a kitchen sink. But the food was so good that, when I was finished, and while my stomach was full, I was still hungry. I still wanted to eat more delicious, delicious pho, even thought it would cause me physical pain to shove more rice noodles down my gullet. It was that good.

The servings were massive as well. The medium was more than enough for me, even though I had skipped lunch (thanks, College Board! We love you, and we love your AP tests!), coming in a bowl sharing the approximate dimensions of a kitchen sink. But the food was so good that, when I was finished, and while my stomach was full, I was still hungry. I still wanted to eat more delicious, delicious pho, even thought it would cause me physical pain to shove more rice noodles down my gullet. It was that good.

The servings were massive as well. The medium was more than enough for me, even though I had skipped lunch (thanks, College Board! We love you, and we love your AP tests!), coming in a bowl sharing the approximate dimensions of a kitchen sink. But the food was so good that, when I was finished, and while my stomach was full, I was still hungry. I still wanted to eat more delicious, delicious pho, even thought it would cause me physical pain to shove more rice noodles down my gullet. It was that good.

Ben
Without noticing the approaching closing time, Jasper and I remained at our table chatting and slowly sipping our waters, in part because of our stuffed stomachs but also due to the homey atmosphere which made it quite hard to get up and leave behind. When we finally walked out into the warm, clinging night air to make the short drive home, we exchanged a glance and shared an unspoken agreement: Yes, that was a delicious and filling meal, yes, we would be coming back, and yes, Hometown Noodle is easily a perfect five out of five stars.

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