Exploring Etiquette at Phở Tasty

Phở Tasty

19117 Pioneer Blvd.

Artesia, CA 90701

(562) 924-1838

Cuisine: Phở, Vietnamese

Mon-Thu, Sun: 9am - 9pm

Fri-Sat: 9am - 9:30pm

Price: $ Parking: Lot Credit Cards: YES

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When I was in college, a big Korean guy once threatened to kick my ass for not knowing how to use chopsticks. At the time, I thought it was strange that he picked a fight over it, but I suppose he was upset that a fellow Asian never learned the customary practice. I've managed to develop a passing ability in the years since, allowing me to try a place like Phở Tasty, located in Artesia near the Cerritos border.

The place was surprisingly crowded on a Monday evening with 32 people in all, including myself. Fortunately, there's plenty of seating, as the 32 of us managed to fill up about half of the restaurant. The place has several standard, 4-person tables lining the interior and the small patio has a handful more.

Considering the name of the joint is "Phở Tasty", figuring out the house specialty isn't too difficult. For those who are unfamiliar, phở is a Vietnamese soup of rice noodles, onions, peppers, bean sprouts, and meat. After a brief once over of the meat selection, I settle on the steak and brisket. Other options include chicken, shrimp, meatballs, tripe, and vegetarian. Phở Tasty offers two size options when it comes to the soup – I opted for the smaller size. My food arrived very quickly, taking 2 or 3 minutes. I assume it's an easy dish to assemble, as they probably have one guy scoop the broth from a big pot into a bowl and another guy fill it with the noodles, meat, and onions before handing it off to the server. Henry Ford would be proud.

My lack of chopstick experience is made apparent when I try to gather the bean sprouts that are on a separate dish. I have a hard time transferring them to the soup and instead lose my grip as they fall on the table, making a mess. In my mind's eye, I can see the Korean guy from college cracking his knuckles for an imminent beatdown. I finally manage to gather a bundle of sprouts and safely transfer it to the soup bowl. I casually clean up the mess of bean sprouts, covering up the evidence of my American upbringing.

The phở itself was very good. The broth was warm with just the right amount of seasoning and tasted even better after I added the assortment of bottled sauces available at each table. As for the meat, I believe it's intentionally served a bit undercooked and meant to finish cooking in the broth as it's being served. Regardless, it tasted quite tender and fresh. After I begin eating, I realize that I have to slurp the noodles up, making a very audible sucking sound as I bring them in. At this point, it occurs to me that the only thing I know about Asian dining etiquette comes from the scene in Mr. Baseball when Tom Selleck goes to meet his Japanese girlfriend's parents and sits aghast as they loudly slurp away on their noodles. Tom Selleck looks on in confusion and his girlfriend finally clues him in, letting him know it's polite to slurp. As I'm doing the same, I hope to myself that Japanese etiquette is compatible with Vietnamese etiquette. And for that matter, I also hope to myself that Japanese etiquette as portrayed by Hollywood is compatible with reality.

[caption id="attachment_2063" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="After the meat has fully cooked in the broth"][/caption]

The price of the meal (without a soda – only water) came out to around 6 bucks after tax. Considering that you would pay roughly the same amount for a meal at a fast food place and comparing that with the satisfying phở at a place like Phở Tasty, the rice noodle soup sounds like an attractive option to me. The price is more than reasonable, the wait time is negligible, and you get to make a bunch of noise while you eat. Just make certain your chopstick handling is up to par.

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