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Jan 17, 2001 11:02 AM

Uncle Huh?

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Hi. I'm just wondering why there might be such divisive opinions regarding Uncle Pho on Smith Street. Some people make fun of the name (that tired "Uncle Faux" jape again, hardee-har-har) and that Robert Sietsema writes in the new Village Voice that he had an "atrociously bad meal" there. Since I live out in Marine Park, I'm not often in the area but when I am, it seems to be doing fine business. And why not, unless the food is really that bad? It's in a safe neighborhood and you can eat ethnic food without the discomfort of being around mostly ethnic people, which, let's be honest, is usually difficult. For a few dollars more... I'll pay for the comfort and convenience. But, in this case, is it worth foregoing my favored Yemeni meals on Atlantic Avenue? Thanks in advance,


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  1. To address your question about food quality at Uncle Pho: I think it's pretty bad, and there's no way I'd call it ethnic food. I've been three times (at the behest of others and thankfully not on my own dime) and entrees were uniformly greasy and oversauced with the same kind of too-sweet brown glop. It's one thing to get this at a storefront Chinese joint where you pay 3.95, but quite another when you're shelling out $30 or $40 per person. And yeah, it does good business. So does the Blimpie by my office.

    1. b
      Brendan Taylor

      I think what is most disapointing about Uncle Pho is that you get the feeling that you are paying for the scene at the expense of the food. It's crouded because it has a trendy decor, an attractive bar, etc... and a lot of people really don't care that much about food.

      I've seen someone on the site (maybe Jim?) write on occasion about food being made with love... this food is made, as far as I can tell, with spite. It's not disgusting - it just isn't really good, and by no means is it worth the money. I was only there once over the summer and I can't remember what I had - one appetizer was tasty (dumplings?), I think I had a duck confit (maybe) spring roll (or something similar) that was so greasy it seemed like the chef was angry at me for something.

      Another of the owners' restaurants, the Red Rail is the same way. It is really pricey for the caliber and quality of the meals and left me feeling robbed, not well fed. In fact, I haven't tried their original Smith Street effort, Patois, on account of my experiences at these two places... should I?

      8 Replies
      1. re: Brendan Taylor

        I think Patois is a little better than Uncle Pho. My biggest problem with Patois is that it became to big for its little briches too fast. When it opened it had a wide-eyed friendliness about it to accompany rather good (I think) food. Shortly thereafter, there was an attitude to go along with the meal. I tried a few more times and haven't been back since.

        1. re: Zephyr

          Patois is light years a better dining and eating experience than its siblings, Uncle Faux (love that!) and Red Rail, but I agree with Zephyr that its vibe has changed some not for the better since last summer. I liken it to the "evolution" of the East Village in the early 90s, when as the area got more "discovered", many places I used to enjoy for a pleasant and comfortable brunch or dinner suddenly gave off whiffs or outright reeks of pretentiousness. I fear this trend is an inevitable trend for the neighborhood and will get out of hand before it gets better. All this being said, I think the food at Patois is very nicely prepared -- LUV the spinach side like mad! -- and I have not had rude or incompetent service, just slightly less friendly service than I remember from its early days.

          1. re: Anne S.
            Joyce Goldstein

            I agree that the food at Patois is good but the wait-staff I have experienced there is supercilious at best! For the money, I'd much prefer to go to Saul any day of the week!

            1. re: Joyce Goldstein

              Abashed to admit that I have yet to trek far enuf down Smith to visit Saul. Please motivate me w/good reports! :) Thanks.

              1. re: Anne S.

                IMHO, it is the class of Smith Street. I haven't been disappointed yet. For perspective, of the other places, I like Patois the best, but dislike the increasingly snooty ambience. Don't care for Pho or Sur. Haven't tried Banania. You'll be happy you tried Saul.

                1. re: Zephyr

                  Carroll Street bites. I guess Sur is alright, but why not go the distance and hit Elmhurst or J.H. and get a real Argentine meal? Uncle Pho--catfood wrapped in noodles. Bannania--get a new name! but food OK, probably the best of the bunch, though you'd do about as well in a diner at half the price. And that new tapas bar? Haven't been there but I bet it's not very good. Any takers? Patois--Who'd eat there what with the rotten service?

                  1. re: Anthony B.

                    Hey Anthony, lay off the bong! You're talking about Smith Street! But I gotta agree. The only place worth eating around there is Tabouleh. And what's this crap about being disturbed by being around "ethnic" people at the start of this thread. It's a joke, right? It's like saying, I want some DiFara's pizza, but can't stand to look at that old geezer twirling dough behind the counter. Can you get rid of him pleez?

                    1. re: aardvark

                      Pot is for you kids, I was shooting smack with me mates. Haven't tried Tabouleh, where is it? Do they have any khat?

      2. Could you describe for us the "discomfort of being around mostly ethnic people"? I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at.