Does OBAO Have a Bun Bo Hue Controversy on Their Hands?

Brand new restaurants will always have their opening hiccups, but there seems to be a bit of confusion surrounding a particular dish being served at OBAO, Michael Hyunh’s new pan-Asian restaurant on 53rd btw. 2+3rd.  Yesterday, I posted about my first lunch at OBAO and mentioned that I ordered the Bun Bo Hue, a spicy lemongrass flavored Vietnamese soup, that usually comes with all sorts of offal bits and pieces in it (and should have a red oily sheen.)  At OBAO, the soup comes advertised as such on the menu, but what I was served seemed to more closely match their pho (as it was described on the menu.)  I assumed they had just served me the wrong soup, until I read a review of the same soup on Peter Cherches’ blog.  He ordered the Bun Bo Hue as well, and was served the exact same soup I got… but with one difference.  He actually questioned the staff about it, and was assured it was the Bun Bo Hue and not the pho.

To further confuse the matter the soup comes with a hot chili paste, and other accoutrement that when added to the pho’ish dish make it more like a Bun Bo Hue (but not so much so that it settles the matter.)  So, was this the case of a deconstructed Bun Bo Hue, or a staff that is just suffering from some major Vietnamese soup confusion.  We weren’t the only ones who have tried the soup in the past week, and comments from other Midtown Lunch’ers have attempted to solve the riddle.

Numerous lunch’ers pointed out in the comments that the photo I posted looked nothing like Bun Bo Hue, including Lunch’er pamplemoo who posted a photo of the real deal:

that definitely looks like pho (i’m viet). bun bo hue is greasy and spicy and a flavor kaPOW. also should come with rounder thicker noodles and many different mints/toppings:   But it never ceases to amaze me how ny bastardizes and overcharges for viet food…so who knows.

Danny from the blog Food and Mouth had this to say:

ordered the Bun bo Hue for take-out. it looked and tasted like pho to me… although not sure what Bun bo Hue should taste like. The hot sauce was great!

And Lunch’er Neil made matters even more confusing with his comment:

It might be beating a dead horse, but the photo of the bun looks exactly like the pho I got there last friday and had the same thinly sliced meat cooked to a medium rare.

It’s not all about the soup, though. Lunch’er Monstermooch reports a rice mix up as well:

i was here 3 times for dinner last week (i live 3 blocks away), and ordered the viet fried rice but it looks nothing like the one you got. i’m thinking they gave me the thai fried rice considering mine had an egg on top of it (which thrilled me) and the chinese sausage looked more like bbq pork.

Finally Lunch’er Tzinkraze reports getting something more like a real Bun Bo Hue…

I actually just went to OBAO for lunch and got the Bun bo Hue. Though the soup had less lemongrass flavor than most others I’ve had, the meat inside it was definitely pig’s feet. I really think they may have given you the pho. Even the noodles I see in the picture are completely different from the pure white round ones I got and the soup was much oilier. So whatever the issue was they were having before, I think they figured it out. But again, this is not super authentic, don’t expect the same amount of grease or as much of a lemongrass taste. Definitely a bit tailored to an American audience.

So maybe they’ve fixed the issue? Maybe they had it entered wrong in the computer. Maybe Bun Bo Hue was being sent to the kitchen as pho, and the servers didn’t know the difference when the wrong dish came out? Who knows. I think I might have to hit up OBAO and order both soups side by side. I feel like it’s the only way to settle this once and for all. Has anybody else had an issue?

A Very Early Look at OBAO’s Lunch


  • I ordered the pho bo on the same day Zach went.
    My pho soup looked exactly like the one pictured above but i don’t remember if it had chopped scallions on it.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    maybe enough people complained to the point where they realized they were cooking the wrong thing? maybe recipe pages got stuck together or something?

    i really think you should go there, order both and then if they are the same call the waitress over and tell her how you had 2 different orders but instead got 2 orders of the same dish and send it back until you get something different

  • This has to be the silliest article I’ve ever read on this site :) A pho-controversy (funnier if you read “pho” as “faux”… okay maybe not).

  • I think this goes beyond not catering something to customers’s tastes. It’s blatantly misrepresenting a country’s culture by trying to pass off one item on their menu for another. Lame.

  • i’ve been quoted. wheee!!! :D

  • I really wanted to read this post, because inquiring minds (including New Yawk City resident wannabes like me).

    But that ad on the upper left — with the ‘flat belly’ commercial distracts me to the point that I simply cannot concentrate upon the content of the informative post.

    I mean that cartoon character of what I guess is a NYC lady, keeps puffing up and then deflating just like a few Cobras I saw at the zoo.

    Okay, I’m going to try to read the post again AFTER sticking some ‘Post It’ notes over her picture on my monitor.

    Carry on.

  • See Fred this is why I like docchuck better then you.

  • Any “bun bo hue” served with a clear broth should definitely not be called “bun bo hue”! I hope you atleast got the thicker noodles and not pho noodles. :/

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I have to hand it to you Zach, I thought the manufacured controversies were a stroke of genuis, then you started recapping the forums as filler(redundant as they may be), but NOW you’ve outdone yourself. Constructing an entire article on this compelling issue based on the comments one could easily scroll down and read in the original context if they so desired.

    It must be hell having to come up with content day after day.

  • @Bossman: the man need time to defribillate, for pete’s sake. Personally, I go for the Tuesday half price special after 5pm at lennox hill. two more times and I get a free angioplasty. Wooo!

  • I haven’t seen my navel since 1975, but I doubt that’s the real issue here.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    The bun bo Hue I got definitely had the right kind of noodles in the wrong kind of soup. A Tiger in the Kitchen also reviewed the restaurant (mixed), and the photo of the putative BBH was exactly what Zach and I were served. She also thought the laksa was awful.

    Here’s the link:

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.