March 18, 2013

Phase 2: Pho U & Me

Offering a second review of U & Me will appear redundant to some.  And you’d be correct; it’s becoming increasing difficult finding new ways to embellish these dinner reviews.  So, with no other way to circumvent this obvious dilemma, here’s a photo of four monkeys riding a giant guinea pig…



Onto the business at hand, U & Me still remains one of my favorite restaurant locations in town.  No matter the competition, not matter my tastes, I always find myself returning.  Over the three years I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve sampled dozens of dishes from dozens of restaurants, some more than earning enough praise to be considered a weekly ritual.  I’ve discovered jewels buried in coal and re-affirmed my faith in the established pillars of gastronomic dogma.  And throughout it all, I’ve yet to discover a local restaurant that can seriously threaten U&Me for the position.  It’s not just because it occupies the same area of the lamented Suzuran; U&Me also manages to tap into its predecessor’s spirit.  How else can you explain the energy reflected in the faces of the married owners?  Without fail, regardless of the time of day or the day of the week, the weather outside or the instability of the city’s economy, they always greet each patron with such a measure of exuberance, you’d swear they had mistaken you for a lost child. 


After being sold on its cuisine by Suzuran’s owner, I paid it forward by bringing every friend I had here.  My commitments to this blog precluded becoming a regular, an attribute easily taken up by those I convinced, some of whom have become such common staples that they’re not even required to order a dish.  Their “usual” is brought without prompt.  That’s evidence of the quality of customer service as well as the somewhat pedestrian nature of my friends.


This day, I managed to convince Dave Brown to accompany me, one of the last people I know still unaware of U&Me’s value.  With dinner, I decided to once again order against assumptions, avoiding pho.  I still ordered the shrimp salad roll, the greatest appetizer ever made by anyone, period.  At $3.50, there’s no greater value you’re ever to find, and I swear they’re getting larger each time I order one.   For the main I ordered the ginger beef and requested mild spice.  Remember, their mild is everyone else’s medium, their medium is everyone else’s hot, and their hot will make Giger’s Xenomorph pant*.


Being Vietnamese, the cuisine acts as a bridge between Thai and Chinese with a slight slant (I said slant) to the latter.  So the ginger beef doesn’t look too far departed from similar dishes served from the culinary cistern considered to be western Chinese food.  The difference is…well, everything.  The sauce was made in house, and it’s a deep red with visible blades of ginger concealed within.  The beef was cooked perfectly, not tough like chewing on a jacket.  It is everything Chinese food could be but isn’t most of the time.  A common question asked is what I’d recommend for Chinese food in Prince George.  Have readers not learned anything from this blog?  It would be like asking a German for recommendations while travelling in France…in 1939.  Now I have an answer.  So, next time someone asks me to recommend a good Chinese restaurant, I’ll just say U&Me.  Sure, it’s not Chinese, but in the end, you’ll thank me.


I sincerely cannot recommend this place enough.  If not for the pho, then for their rolls or their main dishes.  Along with Shiraz, U&Me is one of the few places I’ve been to where I would make it my mission to eventually try everything on their menu. 


But patrons should be reminded of the warnings I gave in my previous review (I can’t remember if I actually did, and I’m too lazy to check, so let’s just assume I did and move on).  Food is delivered fast, perhaps too fast for a casual meal, but don’t feel pressured to leave after the meal is concluded.  I’ve spent hours at U&Me without any pressure to clear out.  Secondly, the condiments on the table are there to taunt you.  Don’t let them win.  Few people can really stomach the level of heat in those bottles and you could unknowingly ruin your meal if you’re too punchy with the peppers. 


And that’s really the only criticism I can lay.  U&Me is the one restaurant I really can’t wait to get back to.  If I ever decide this blog coverage is complete, I’ll be able to finally decide on my weekly ritual, and most likely, it will be U&Me.  Sure, there may be better restaurants, prestigious with a greater pedigree of talent, but U&Me delivers quality and doesn’t break your bank doing it.  A large soup will drag you into the current if you’re not careful.  A meal for two will be less than 40 bucks.  A lunch could still come under $10 unless you go for the signature Vietnamese coffee which I never drink (I despite coffee). 


Seriously, I’m gushing more than a prom queen with a menstrual problem.  U&Me has never disappointed and never will.  It’s some of the best Asian cuisine you’re likely to ever have, an honorable successor to when this same location served the best sushi ever. 

DECOR:  7.5



FOOD:  9

VALUE:  10


OVERALL:  8.9 out of 10 

* Acid for blood, remember. 






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