The Vietnamese New Year, or Tết, is Vietnam's most celebrated holiday. It's a celebration of the start of the year's first lunar cycle as marked by the lunar calendar, but despite this literal event occuring in a single day the celebration often lasts for at least the week. Thus it was appropriate for Pho restaurant in Brighton to commemorate the occasion last night with a twitter happy hour party.
The Pho Tweet Up was publicised on the popular micro-blogging site Twitter (by the way, I'd love for you to follow me if you aren't already), an event to celebrate Tết and give gluttons foodies like my pal Jojo and me a chance to sample some previously unknown dishes and get our networking on.
Worth noting is my complete social clumsiness- no, my bumbling klutzy nature isn't reserved solely for the kitchen. I want to meet you in real life, really I do. I'll be the one unwittingly flinging scraps across the table whilst attempting to piece together comprehensible speech. The one failing at these efforts.
The night started with a free drink followed by some classic starters from the menu served buffet style: goi cuon (delicate fresh summer rolls), goi ngo sen (tangy crunchy lotus root salad), and cha gio chay (fried rice paper spring rolls). Cleared away, out came the main course fayre which included pho xao chay (wok-fried rice noodles with lemongrass, chili and onion served with veggies, mushrooms and tofu) and com chay cari (coconut based Vietnamese curry with tofu, veggies and mushrooms, served with jasmine rice).
There were other dishes as well, but the meat based stuff was off my radar. Incidentally the staff are amazing when it comes to serving vegetarians. More than once we were consulted regarding what we could eat, and on top of that all the food was appropriately labeled.
I don't intend this post to be a restaurant review (look here if that's what you're after), but I will say this: the concept of balance in all food preparation is important but I think the margin for error is greater in much Southeast Asian cooking. Pho does a pretty good job of getting it right, balancing not just the flavours but also the idea of traditional Vietnamese cuisine with what's judged good by typical Western tastes.
It dawned on us the event was more than just free food, but also an opportunity to meet other faces from behind the veil of the internet. I'm all for attempts, and I've been making a concerted effort to accept opportunities which challenge my social ineptitude, so I had a crack at engaging with some of our dining neighbours. Did I learn anything? Mainly that socialising without a hitch is for other people.
The lovely chap to my left, the omnivore sandwiched between vegetarians at the table, I'm sure he enjoyed me telling him my friend's cat just weed on her bed (by the way, if you're reading this accept my apologies for that and for not saying goodbye). One other botched attempt at socialising involved drawing attention to my presence beyond the usual introduction by dispensing food onto the table rather than my plate (sorry, Pho for being the one who made the mess). At least she laughed at me tucking the spillage under the rim of the dish.
We left and went for a drink. I donned my name tag the entire time.
Need I mention my revelation this morning that I accidentally gave everyone my incorrect twitter identity? ("you're the best at networking!" was my friend's response).
A great big thank you to Pho Brighton for your brilliant efforts. You make a mean lemonade.