Pho 99 Beef Stew – What Comes After the DTR

pho 99, brentwood, los angeles, ca - beef stew
Remember when we “dated” in college?


If you don’t remember dating in college because you were an MCB major, never showered, never plucked your eyebrows, never put on a smack of lipgloss, wore the same oversized hooded sweatshirt and Gap overalls everyday on an unchanging route from your apartment on Regent Street to the 4th floor of the undergraduate library and back again, well…that’s another post.

(I was Molecular Cell Bio only for the first two years, okay?!? I graduated with Economics!!)

But if you weren’t necessarily a complete loser/loner like me and don’t remember “dating” in college, the reason is that there was no such thing as “dating.” You were just “hanging out.”

Sure, when the [insert ethnicity here]-American Student Association’s spring formal came around, you took a “date,” but in regular, everyday college life, you didn’t go out on “a date,” and you certainly never went out on a series of dates. You weren’t “dating” your boyfriend. He just was…your boyfriend. Unless you were talking to your parents, of course, in which case he was your “peer tutor.”

You see, “dating” is something that we, as mature adults, do. Or rather, don’t do, but somewhere in that two years between college graduation and your real life, someone has brainwashed you into thinking that you’re supposed to be doing it. But it doesn’t exist. Dating is a figment of a marketing geniuses imagination. Dating is something that Dr. Neil Clark Warren,, and LavaLife have fabricated. They created this idea of something that no one actually has or does, to make you feel like you’re missing out, but suddenly, they offer the best alternative to your nonexistent piece of it.


But brilliant, billion-dollar industry captain jerks.

So dating doesn’t really exist. What really happens is exactly what happens in college when you never called it dating to begin with. Only now you’re wearing cuter shoes. And you don’t have to worry about “privacy” from your nosy roommates.

You meet a guy.

He says, “We should study together!” Of course, unless you’re in some crazy PhD program now, or you’re on the 10-year track in college, he doesn’t say “study.” He probably says “We should go shopping together!” In which case, he’s gay, so ignore the rest of this post. He would realistically say something like “Let’s grab a cocktail at Happy Hour together!”

You are your ridiculously charming self over two cocktails at a place halfway between your offices. You chat. You laugh. You guys will do this again.

You do it again.

By the time you guys are taking turns every other night at each others’ apartments watching DVDs and ordering dinner in, you are “hanging out.” And you haven’t gone on a single date.

But then.


But then

While you’re scraping the last of the bindhi masala from the takeout box onto your plate, he says “We should talk.”

You heard what he said, but you know he left out two words. You know that what he really meant to say was, “We should have the talk.”


“The talk.” That dreaded four hours and forty-five-minute conversation that you wish you could have over IM, but this isn’t college anymore! The talk, which is commonly referred to by its scientific code name, The DTR, in which you and he recap the past month, or three weeks, or if you work really fast, two days; in which you and he admit out loud how you “feel” about each other *shudders*; in which you and he talk about…the future. Negotiations. Guidelines. Terms of Exclusivity and the Non-Disclosure Act. Define the Relationship. You have had these DTRs before in your (not)dating life. They always go well! But they have always been the beginning of…the end.

Your mouth is full of gobi aloo and before you can turn up the volume on Top Chef or change the subject, he has started down the road of the dreaded DTR.

You hash out the DTR. As usual, it’s refreshing. Or maybe that’s the Sauvignon Blanc you just chugged straight from the bottle.

It’s out there. It’s on the table. It’s spoken. Your feelings are now official…and three days later, you just don’t like it anymore.

The DTR has stripped all the heart-a’flutter, mysterious, spontaneous fun out of “hanging out.”

pho 99, los angeles, ca - beef stew
alpo stew, but the deluxe line

Vietnamese beef stew is the aftermath of the DTR. Vietnamese beef stew has eradicated every delicious longing I’ve had for pho at Pho 99.

I hated pho. I hated Vietnamese food. But no sooner do I realize that “Hm, well, yeah, I guess pho is starting to grow on me since I’ve been ‘hanging out’ at Pho 99 more frequently than necessary,” and finally admit how I feel about the deliciously light, salty chicken and/or pork and/or beef broth, I taste something I hate, and I have to rethink ever “hanging out” at Pho 99 again.

Beef stew. I should have known. For God’s sake, it’s called “beef stew,” and anything called beef stew, or comes in a pull top can, or looks strangely too much like beef, or all of the above, is going to be bad. The stew had promise because in the picture at the bottom of Pho 99’s very well-illustrated menu for people who don’t read Vietnamese, the stew appears to be dark red. As if it were going to burn the epithelium right off my esophagus on the way down. I like that.

The stew was spicy alright. It wasn’t spicy with “fire”; it was spicy, with “oriental sp
ices,” as the menu so clearly stated in the description. Oriental! Oh-wee-en-toe! It tasted like a strange Oriental Christmas mix of cinnamon, cloves, and ass. I hated it. I should have been tipped off by “oriental” and the fact that the “oriental” beef stew comes with a French baguette instead of “oriental” rice. I know, duh. I know that Vietnamese food has a high degree of influence from France, but I am ranting. The beef stew greasy, watery, strangely flavored with dissolved Gingerbread men, and the beef cubes looked like Alpo. Alpo, the deluxe version, that is, since they were pretty big chunks. There was something lost in the translation from Bo Kho Banh Mi Hoa Com to “dog food.” I don’t know where “beef stew” comes from in there.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I can’t throw away all that time I spent at Pho 99. It was fun. Pho was fun.

Alright. *sigh* I’ll give it a try. I can do this.

We’re just never ordering beef stew again. And we do weeknights at my place.

Pho 99
11819 Wilshire Boulevard (@ Granville)
Los Angeles, CA 90025

** a year ago today, the hungry cat made me meow **

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