Pho 32 & Shabu
Categories: Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese
Neighborhood: Murray Hill
2 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10014
Have you ever thought fondly of the days when you were allowed to play with your food at the dinner table and not get smacked? Those innocent days are over, but you can relive them temporarily at Pho 32. The Special Plate is special indeed, allowing you to build your own summer rolls with a slew of ingredients at your disposal. What will playing with food cost you? $22. There’s enough food for you and two others to play with, so it’s not a bad deal.
When you hit the playtime button, the servers start rolling out the plates of ingredients. One plate contains cooked and pre-seasoned pork and chicken pieces. Another plate has a variety of vegetables, avocado, and mango. The last plate holds the summer roll wrappers. They’re surprisingly hard and don’t seem like they can wrap anything. Then they bring out the hot water in a bowl and it all starts making sense. You soak the wraps in the water and within seconds they turn see-through and flexible. Kind of like Shrinky Dinks when they’re in the oven. Remember those?
Given my wrapping skills and over-zealousness with the fillings, my rolls tended to vomit frequently onto the plate, but they were delicious nonetheless. The deliciousness is only limited by your creativity in choosing the fillings, so you have permission to go wild with the chopsticks. I would like to believe that I became more and more expert at crafting these rolls as I went along, but who knows? They all tasted like someone else with more skills made them. I think I ate 7 rolls by the end and was satisfied.
Since our group was larger than three, we also ordered other dishes to supplement our meal. There was a seafood noodle dish that was extra spicy – more Korean than Vietnamese, I think. The spiciness hurt my abilities to savor my rolls, so I ate very little of it. There was also a seafood shabu where the shrimp still had their heads on. We also had a tofu/vegetarian pho that I didn’t try, but it received high praise. We ended up with way too much food, but it was great to sample the dishes. The Special Plate, though, is really what you should focus on. — Judy Ruminates
Seafood shabu ingredients [without the shrimp]: