I’ll try anything once…when it comes to food. I’ve had cow tongue. I’ve had escargot. How have I not tried Pho? Well, first off, I had no idea what it is.
I kept seeing social media posts of people raving about it. Then, I would see it in a new restaurant’s name. But, seriously, what is Pho? According to the Oxford Dictionary, Pho is a noun; defined as “a type of Vietnamese soup, typically made from beef stock and spices to which noodles and thinly sliced beef or chicken are added.”
Meat, noodles, and spice. Count me in! I decided to take the plunge and try it. I wandered through the hot streets of Uptown and found my way into Pho Plus. It was busy, but I was provided with a table right away. As they have so many regulars who know their order by heart, I revealed myself as a “first timer” by asking to see a menu.
The menu was simple and broken into 5 main categories:
3) Banh Mi (sandwiches, to those used to ordering on American menus)
5) Rice Dish
Category number two reiterates the definition that Pho is a type of Vietnamese food and that you can find much more on the menu. A co-worker had recently recommended Vermicelli if I decided to try a Pho restaurant during this hot summer.
I ordered the Shrimp and Spring Roll Vermicelli. Within a few minutes, a small bowl of a light brown liquid was placed at my table. Strange, I thought. Did my lunch order come with soup? I remembered someone saying fish sauce was a key ingredient in Pho. Fish sauce is condiment made of fermented fish. Sounds kinda gross, but, hey, I’ll try it. Could this liquid be the sauce to add to my forthcoming bowl of goodness?
My entrée soon arrived and I was ready for this new experience. The bowl was full of lettuce, sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, and topped with skewered shrimp and a sliced egg roll. It looked great, but I still wasn’t sure how to incorporate the bowl of sauce. Luckily, I noticed another customer spooning out his bowl of sauce over his entrée. I figured if that worked for him, it would work for me.
The first bite was great. The second bite was even better. Each bite seemed to have its own unique flavor. There were hints of basil, but also salt and minimal spice. I spooned a bit more of the sauce over my entrée since I was feeling brave. I even dipped my egg roll slices into the smaller sauce bowl. The sauce is salty, but definitely not spicy. I would describe it as a liquid seasoning similar to soy sauce, but not as strong in flavor. It was a subtle addition to the already delicious bowl of noodles, meat, and vegetables.
For those not familiar with vermicelli, it is thin rice noodles. They were at a cool (but not cold) temperature in this dish. The shrimp were lightly seasoned and dusted with sesame seeds. The veggies were all sliced into matchstick size. Their crunchiness is a perfect compliment to the softness of the cooked noodles.
I was able to easily eat the dish with chopsticks, but noticed that silverware was available on each table. Also placed on the table are a variety of spices and sauces. I saw Sriracha, Hoisin, and something that resembled crushed red pepper in olive oil. I would likely add some spiciness to my dish next time, but that’s just me.
As a “first timer,” I was very pleased with my experience with Pho Plus. The menu was simple. The service was quick. The environment was laidback with light Vietnamese music playing in the background. The restaurant diners ranged from men and women wearing business attire to construction vests. It seemed to be very popular for takeout orders as well.
The price points are all under $10.00. It is important to note that the restaurant policy is that a credit card can only be used for purchases over that amount. Plan accordingly.
I’m excited to experience Vietnamese cuisine again soon. I’m hoping to go with a group next time and lean on those around me for suggestions on ordering and sauces to add. My first experience, though, was pho-nomenal.