Why: Pho Haven serves traditional Vietnamese cuisine for the whole family in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The menu offers a complete variety of pho as well as traditional and modern Vietnamese favorites in addition to a sprinkling of Chinese options made to diners’ specifications for lunch and dinner.
Atmosphere: The restaurant is in an older Vancouver house that has been home to several other restaurants. This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy outdoor dining on the front patio, which is surrounded by colorful, thriving flowers and greenery and shaded by table umbrellas.
What I tried: My dining companions and I started with the pot stickers and the egg rolls. I settled on the banh mi with lemongrass beef and my dining companions ordered pad thai and the yakisoba, both with chicken. We also sampled the salted soda plum drink.
The pot stickers and the egg rolls were served with a sweet chili dipping sauce. The pot stickers were filled with chicken and vegetables and pan-fried. I liked the fried quality of the pot stickers, which are typically served with a more pasta-like exterior. The egg rolls contained a pork-and-vegetable filling. These had a light, flaky crisp to each bite and plenty of filling within.
The baguette sandwich had an egg yolk and mayonnaise sauce and was filled with pickled daikon and carrot, freshly cut cucumber, jalapeños and cilantro in addition to the meat. It comes served in a paper bag. The first thing I noted was the baguette, although very fresh, had a crispy crust which created a lot of messy crumbs. The beef was deliciously garlicky and the vegetables complemented the bread and the meat. Because I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise, I requested that only a slight amount of the egg and mayonnaise sauce be added. As it was, it kept the baguette sandwich from being too dry. I also asked that the jalapeños not be included. I found the sandwich appetizing and not too filling for lunch.
Dining Out Guide: Pho HavenHours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Telephone: 360-699-4991 Where: 2014 Main St., Vancouver. phohaven.com Pho Haven received a score of 90 on Feb. 19. (According to the health department, all critical violations have been remedied and a routine inspection is scheduled for next week.) 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.
Both my dining companions found their entrees satisfying and noted the generous amount of chicken and fresh quality of the vegetables.
The salted soda plum beverage was salty and unique. The bottom of the glass contained mashed plum. We agreed that the salted soda lemonade was probably a better flavor choice because plums are not quite as flavorful as lemons and the lemonade is likely more favorably enhanced by the salt.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: The Vietnamese sizzling crepe with pork and shrimp sounded tasty, as did the grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves. Appetizers include salad rolls, caramelized chicken wings and crispy tofu with dipping sauce. Charbroiled chicken with rice is on the menu, as is hot-and-sour tom yum noodle soup with shrimp and tomatoes. Among the desserts are fried bananas, baked banana pudding, caramelized flan, and red bean and pandan jelly. Beer and wine are available in addition to several teas, soda, bubble tea with black pearls, and a fresh avocado smoothie.
Other observations: The food was good and the service was friendly. I was very surprised when I discovered how poor the health score was. After contacting the county, I learned that follow-up inspections were conducted and all red (critical) violations were remedied and that a routine inspection is scheduled for some time next week.
Cost: Appetizers and salads cost $6 to $9. Baguette sandwich options are $5.50 and $6. Pho ranges from $8.50 to $11.50. Noodles cost $9 to $11.50. Rice dishes are $9.50 to $11.50. Entrees are $9.50 to $13. Vegetarian options are $12. Specialties cost $13 to $18. Desserts are $4 and $5. Beverages range from $2 to $4.