Why: Pho Green Papaya is a family owned, casual dining family restaurant specializing in a variety of authentic Vietnamese dishes including soups, stir-fry dishes and grilled options.
What I tried: My dining companion and I started our meal with the sliced pork salad rolls. I settled on the Bun Ca Salmon (G17) for my entree, and my dining companion keep it simple with the Com Teriyaki (G18).
The salad rolls consisted of vermicelli noodles, lettuce and bean sprouts laid atop thin-sliced pork and wrapped tightly in clear rice paper. Pho Green Papaya’s peanut sauce is served alongside for dipping. The salad rolls were deliciously fresh and healthful tasting, and the peanut sauce brought a touch of sweetness to the rolls, as dressing often does to salad. The pork in the rolls was pleasantly lean, too.
The salmon dish I ordered consisted of a serving of vermicelli noodles, a cucumber, lettuce and cabbage salad in which the lettuce and cabbage were shredded and the cucumber was cut into small sticks, with a serving-size portion of grilled salmon cut into bite-sized pieces and coated with a turmeric sauce. This is one of those dishes that is easy to remain loyal to once you taste it. The turmeric sauce not only colors the salmon with a bright, saffron hue, but it lends a unique flavor to the fish. Though it is typically somewhat bitter and pungent, it works well with the salmon. Whatever the turmeric is combined with to create the sauce brings a citrus character to the salmon, as well. The salad was fresh, and I appreciated the care taken to shred and chop its ingredients, which lent a slaw-type of presence to it. The entree came with a clear, sweet chili sauce, but I drizzled some of the peanut sauce that came with the appetizer over the noodles instead because I preferred the flavor of it over the chili sauce. I also dipped some of the salmon bites in hoisin sauce (provided at the table) as well, and found it was complimentary to the salmon.
The teriyaki chicken is served with a portion of rice, steamed vegetables and some sweet chili sauce for dipping. My dining companion enjoyed his selection and noted that the vegetables (broccoli, carrots and cabbage) still had an appetizing crunch to them and the teriyaki sauce on the chicken was tasty and generously applied.
Dining Out review: Pho Green Papaya
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Where: 13215 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
Health score: Although Pho Green Papaya has been in business for several years, the restaurant is under new ownership. Consequently is has received a pre-opening inspection and is scheduled for a routine inspection in the near future. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants with a score of 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The house special Pho soup is made with everything in it: eye round steak, flank, tendon and tripe plus meatballs. The Com Bi Cha Thit Nuong sounded interesting. This is made with grilled, marinated, thin-sliced pork, shredded pig skin and an authentic egg pork patty served with rice. Crispy soft shell crab served with a creamy Sriracha sauce is on the menu, as is salmon roe fried rice (Com Chien Trung Ca), a house special with squid and salmon roe. Desserts available include coconut flan with coffee caramel, coconut jelly, mango mousse cake and fried banana and ice cream. Specialty beverages include flavored iced teas, bubble tea, real fruit smoothies, and Vietnamese French milk coffee.
Atmosphere: The strip mall location is nondescript from the outside, but when you step inside, the attention to the detail of the decor creates a very culturally rich atmosphere. A wall that displays a raised relief mural of a Vietnamese village scene provides a focal point for the restaurant space. Bamboo has been used extensively as a wainscotting and as geometric patterns on the wall. Lighting consists of basket-style pendants and halogen fixtures. Tables and booths provide seating and display the same, warm color palette of the rest of the decor.
Other observations: The wait staff was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about menu items. I enjoyed the atmosphere, which was much more upscale than I had anticipated. The food was outstanding. Take out is available (add 50 cents to every item). The only downside to the experience was the noise of the door when someone entered or exited. It needs adjustment, because it bounces several times on the hinges when it is left to close on its own.
Cost: Appetizers cost $5.45 to $10.50. Salads range from $6.45 to $12.50. Rolls are $12.50 and $14. Pho is available in small and large bowls for $7 to $11.45. Other soups cost $10 to $12. Rice dishes are $9.25 to $11.50. Fried rice dishes are $10.50 to $14.50 Vermicelli dishes are $9 to $13.95. Vietnamese crepes are $12.45. Pad Thai and other stir fry dishes cost $11 to $13.25. Curries are $11.50 for chicken or tofu and $12.50 for shrimp. Desserts cost $3 to $5.95. Soft drinks are $1.50 and specialty beverages range from $3 to $4.50.