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All We Can Eat
Posted at 12:40 PM ET, 08/16/2011

Phonomenon truck closes amid internal conflicts

Pho-ever gone: The Phonomenon truck is now up for sale. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Few words could express the excitement I felt when I first heard about the Phonomenon food truck. (Okay, true, I cringed first when I heard the name, but I quickly got over that.) Finally, I thought, someone understands that a food truck can be more than a mobile feeding trough. It can channel an important culinary movement in the D.C. area — the rise of Vietnames cuisine in Falls Church, Langley Park and (increasingly) the District itself — and bring the sublime flavors of the aromatic noodle soup right to downtown office workers.

Granted, my first bowl from Phonomenon wasn’t altogether promising. My beef pho contained no fatty brisket, no well-done brisket, no flank steak, no eye of round, no meat whatsover. It was a thin beef broth loaded with cut-up rice noodles (not exactly made for slurping) and a small garden of greens, including scallions and jalapeno slices. (See the photo after the jump.)

My next bowl, however, was a giant leap forward. The broth was swimming with what looked like well-done brisket slices. Even better, my beef pho came with a small package of garnishes, including bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, loads of Thail basil and a wedge of lime. The thin, slightly metallic broth still needed work, but clearly the owners of Phonomenon were learning exponentially. In another week or two, I was imagining never needing to schlep to Falls Church again. (See the second photo below.)

Where's the beef? My first bowl of beef soup from Phonomenon. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Then today I heard the devastating news: Phonomenon has ceased operations. Its last day was Friday. You can read the convoluted tale here in which one of the owners — a young college student looking to make money for grad school — explains how a business conflict has caused the whole truck to blow up. Writes co-owner Rachel D’Ruan on her blog:

Last night, during our meeting, I refused to collaborate with the slack-off partner because I don’t want to keep picking up their slack every time they fail to keep their words. Right there and then they said “Let’s sell the truck” so my mom agreed & now Phonomenon is being put on the market for sell. We will no longer be running the truck after Fri 8/12 because I refuse to continue splitting my small profit with that slacker who contributed absolutely nothing but headache and stress into my life.

I tried to talk with Phonomenon owners over the phone this morning, but they would only agree to meet in person and my schedule couldn’t accommodate it today. Given the dark nature of what’s apparently going on, I can understand. Here’s a snapshot from Phonomenon’s Twitter page:

I asked D’Ruan whether there’s any chance we might hear from Phonomenon in the future. Here’s what she wrote back via e-mail:

“I can’t reveal that information because it’s not entirely up to my decision. Nothing is certain and I don’t want to release any false information. My priority in the meantime is to move on from the past and focus on my promise with loyal customers. A bigger and better comeback is in the making so sit tight and everyone will get to relive the taste of our food in a different form! I can’t put a time stamp on it right now but the original crew and I are trying our best, we’ll come at everyone when they’re least expected!”

Let’s hope we hear from D’Ruan again, because this bowl of pho holds a lot of promise:

Broken promises? My second bowl from Phonomenon hinted at great things. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

By  |  12:40 PM ET, 08/16/2011

Categories:  Media | Tags:  Tim Carman

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