I’d had duck’s blood before, had used it in my own kitchens, but until I came to Ha Noi Pho, I’d never cared for it beyond its capacity to mount a voluptuously glossy sauce. Here the blood is one of the main points of dinner, and I spear a small, dark triangle of the stuff the minute my bowl of shrimp and field crab and weird-thing-that-looks-like-a-penis soup arrives. The thick duck’s blood tastes gamey, salty (of course), slightly sweet. It tastes (somewhat obviously) of life, condensed. And as it rests in my mouth, for a moment I understand what it is that gets vampires so worked up.
Duck’s blood. Sawgrass. Fishscale mint and fat, slippery banh canh noodles. At Ha Noi Pho, all the strange flora and fauna of the traditional Vietnamese canon are on display and in use. And the result is an amazing little hole-in-the-wall joint so different and so affecting that I sometimes dream about it at night.
That is, when I’m not dreaming about cheesecake ice cream, seared balsamic vinegar, extruded beet noodles and all that other weird stuff that Ian Kleinman makes magic with at O’s Steak and Seafood. This week, I’m writing (again) about O’s because I was there for a pre-New Year’s private lunch that (again) blew my mind and made me reconsider the way I look at food and menus. I was still under its influence when I got to talking with Stephan Frye and Scott Clagett about their new Boulder joint, Sobo American Bistro, and it even hung with me through the writing of this week’s Bite Me, wherein I promise to never again judge a thing as silly as molecular gastronomy (which I once equated with culinary terrorism and chalked up to nothing more serious than a surfeit of blinding ego) without first being willing to have my mind blown.
Not exactly a New Year’s resolution, but it’s about as close as I get. – Jason Sheehan