Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cafe Diem : Philadelphia

My Dad came down to Philadelphia to help me move some of the stuff that I stored back at home while I was in school. And it's always fun to have my Dad in town, since he's the original food enthusiast and really enjoys trying out restaurants about town like me.

This time, we went a bit overboard though. We unintentionally ended up going on a restaurant/food crawl.

It started off innocently enough with Cafe Diem, a Vietnamese place, near the Italian market, recommended by Shola Olunloyo.

And if it's possible, this place is smaller than it looks like on the outside.

I wanted to order the chicken pho, since I've never had it before and they seemed to have a lot of chicken dishes, but they were out of the chicken soup.

Due to a miscommunication, my Dad and I both ended up getting the same thing:

Beef Pho - Wow, an interesting broth.  There was an immediate, more focused flavor, almost as if someone had grabbed a tasteless nectarine and slightly salted it, followed by a sudden fullness of flavor, covering the entire mouth and back of throat, very much like back-end of soy sauce.   Perhaps a touch of lemongrass too?
It made me wonder whether this was natural or just heavy on the MSG, since it had such a sequentially discrete two-part flavor, but it was unique nonetheless.  Everything else, beef balls, tendons, beef slices, noodles were pretty solid, in terms of flavor and cooking. Definitely one of the more satisfying and distinctive-tasting pho I've ever had.

It's hard to recommend a place based solely on one dish, but right now, I do know that Cafe Diem would be my current fave spot for pho in Philly.  That being said, the sheer number of Vietnamese places around and south of the Italian market area makes me wonder whether there are other gems yet to be uncovered.

Cafe Diem
1031 South 8th Street Philadelphia, PA 19147 (Map)
(215) 923-8347

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