So much has been made of Tau Bay's cult status among the Capital City's pho-fans. Unpredictable hours. Off the beaten track location. Brief menu. And pho - serious pho. I ventured there on a dark and chilly January evening with steadfast dining companions Marlow Moo and Adventures of a Saskatchewan Girl - we are quickly greeted by a fairly utilitarian room enlivened by an aquarium of ostentatiously quirky plastic fish. It takes several double-takes to realize that these piscine entertainers are not real.
Tau Bay's menu is divided into two categories: pho and beverages. Various cuts of beef comprise the majority of soups here; these cuts range from approachable ones like steak and brisket to obscure ones like tendon and tripe. A chicken option is also available but is sold out this evening.
Feeling brave, I order the full monty of steak, brisket, flank, tripe and tendon. It arrives as a generous bowl of bracing broth laced with tender noodles and an ample helping of beef. The steak, flank and brisket are exceedingly tender, though the tripe is ridiculously creepy to look at. It resembles small fuzzy tentacles, but if one gets past the aesthetic aspect, it is quite delicious and adds an unusual crunch. Search as I might, I cannot find any tendon in my soup. Either it looks too much like noodles for me to tell the difference or it has been omitted. Fresh mint leaves, chili paste and lemon wedges allow me to add small doses of heat and acidity to the broth until it sings with flavour.
Our beverages beget bravery, for we order salted plum and soda and egg yolk and soda. They are both the surprise hit and shocking disappointment of the evening. Bad news first: salted plum is exactly that - a minced up salted plum swimming in club soda. It is so salty that drinking sea water would be preferable. I can only suppose that it is an acquired taste. The egg yolk and soda, however, is amazingly tasty. It arrives as two whole yolks in the bottom of a tall glass. Proper procedure is to mix it with club soda and pour it over ice. The result is frothy, mild, and tastes of custard. Our meal concludes abruptly when the owners start noisily stacking chairs on tables - this is clearly our signal to leave. Tau Bay lacks subtlety and predictability, but its fabulous pho (and mean egg soda) are delicious antidotes. Just remember to bring an extra helping of bravery if you're in the mood for tendons and salted plums.