Earlier this week, Buzzfeed Food posted a video on Facebook showcasing a local Vietnamese restaurant, Dong Thap Noodles. The video quickly went viral, advertising the quality house-made rice noodles, meat and broth. The most spectacular attraction shown in the video however was the super pho bowl challenge. Any single customer who can eat the super pho bowl – filled with four pounds of meat and noodles and four liters of broth – pays no cost for the meal and walks away with a $100 reward.
Located on 12th Avenue South in Seattle, Dong Thap Noodles is a wildly popular location for traditional Vietnamese pho – not just for the super pho bowl, but for the outstanding quality and freshness of the cuisine. The fresh rice noodles are made daily in the restaurant, and the beef broth slow cooks for many hours before it is ready to be served. From the moment our food reached the table, I could predict how delicious it would taste before it even reached my mouth.
The atmosphere of the restaurant was very welcoming once we came inside. The location is not one of the strong points, Dong Thap Noodles is located in a run-down area of Seattle and parking is limited. The restaurant does not seem glamorous from the outside, but once we got in the door we were completely comfortable.
A short flight of steps leads into the seating area, which was completely full when we visited. The restaurant was well lit, with lots of natural light pouring in through the large front windows. Artwork was painted directly on the walls, including paintings of cherry blossoms and a large bowl of pho. In addition to the art, there were framed newspaper articles praising the restaurant mounted on the walls. Despite its quaint looks on the outside, Dong Thap Noodles is anything but a typical pho joint.
Three friends and I decided to share a meal the same size as the super bowl challenge. Once we ordered, we were waiting at the table for a noticeably longer period of time than I have experienced at other local pho restaurants. Since none of us took on the task of eating the whole portion by ourselves, we had no chance of winning $100 but no cash reward was needed to make the food worth the long wait.
The taste of the pho was entirely different than any other I have tried. The slow cooked beef broth was filled with the flavor of multiple spices and herbs, and made all other pho broth I have previously tasted seem watery and tasteless in comparison. I could have made a meal out of just sipping the broth, but the second best part of the soup was the noodles. I wouldn’t have had to have seen the viral video in order to know that they were freshly made, and just like the broth they made every other restaurant seem like their noodles were purchased in the pasta aisle of a grocery store compared to how delicious the noodles at Dong Thap were.
Offsetting the quality of the food was the quality of service. Although the staff were friendly and courteous, the wait for the food was painfully long and we were only given one spoon to share between the four of us when the pho first arrived. After waiting for five minutes to flag down the waiter and another seven for us to get our spoons, we were finally able to enjoy our pho.
Despite the slow service and the painful experience of getting to the restaurant, the outstanding quality of the food made our visit to Dong Thap Noodles well worth it. Even if one doesn’t accept the super pho bowl challenge, a smaller portion – although not as impressive at first glance – is still a crowd pleaser.