I have been craving pho for a few weeks now. There's no pho near my new city (sadness!), but my fiance and I were out shopping at a mall that happened to be close to a Vietnamese restaurant. Even though we've never been here before, I've been to many pho places. All I have to do is ask for no cilantro, and everything is great.
My pho comes out and there's no visible cilantro. Hooray! Unfortunately, the broth tasted like they had added the cilantro, realized the mistake, and taken it out just before serving it to me. I tried to just deal with it, but the cilantro flavor just kept coming through to the extent that I couldn't even drown it out with the Sirracha or hoisin sauces. Hours later, I still taste it.
The restaurant is run by a husband and wife team. The man came out to ask how it was, and I asked if the broth was cooked with cilantro, or if they onions and scallions were kept with the cilantro. Up until now, I'm perfectly happy asking for a new bowl of soup without the onions or scallions, and I just wanted to make sure the cilantro flavor wasn't coming from the broth itself. Here's where it becomes WTF_service.
The man starts lecturing me on the difference between cilantro, an herb, and kilantro (sp???), which is apparently the Vietnamese word for short ribs. He tells me he's going to bring out the kilantro for me to inspect, because that's what I have a problem with. I tried to explain to him that no, I know the difference between the taste of meat and an herb that I seriously dislike. He refused to accept that somehow, some random pieces of cilantro got into my soup and kept insisting it was the kilantro I didn't like.
At that point, I just gave up. My fiance finished his soup, and we went home. My search for pho in this area continues.