One of the most popular of Vietnamese dishes is pho (pronounced “fuh,” not “fo”), which is usually a bowl of beef, chicken or vegetable broth, filled with rice-based noodles, to which people can add slices of beef, grilled pork, chicken, shrimp, or just about any protein. Slip in cabbage, carrots, green or white onions, cucumber, jalapeno, basil, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, and wedges of lemon or lime to complete the dish.
Pho Vi Van is certainly a very popular practitioner of this Southeast Asian “soup.” The menu features the namesake pho, but also offers up a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine, including appetizers like Pork Egg Rolls, Pork and Shrimp Salad Rolls, Shrimp or Chicken Salad Rolls, and Fried Pork and Shrimp Wontons (all for $4.95). We passed on the Stir-Fried Chicken Wings, “caramelized in a garlic and sweetened fish sauce” and the tempting Green Mussels Sushi-Style (both $7.50) until our next visit.
The Pork Egg Rolls were crispy outside and filled with juicy pork, onions, carrots and taro root and were accompanied by a sweet chili dipping sauce. The Pork and Shrimp Salad Roll rice paper wrappers were bulging with lettuce, basil, vermicelli and shrimp, and were served with a tangy and tasty peanut sauce.
Then we headed to the 10 varieties of pho they offer in three sizes: kid, medium and large. The medium is a very large bowl that will satisfy all but the very biggest eaters. Priciest are the Special Pho (round steak, lean brisket, beef meatballs, tripe and soft tendon) and Shrimp Pho, both $9.50 for the medium size.
The others range from $5.50 to $8.50 to $10.50 for the three sizes. The Medium-Rare Round Steak Pho taunted our culinary taste buds. Once doctored with bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of hoisin sauce, it was, as my companion put it, “a very low calorie and satisfying lunch.”
The beef was tender and (as advertised) medium rare. The complex spices, green onion slices, basil leaf and rice noodles were bathed in a delicious beefy and refreshing broth. We joined the whole restaurant in clicking our chopsticks and slurping happily.
I skimmed past the special entrees and other sections of the menu and eyed the vermicelli noodle dishes. A dozen varieties included combinations of short ribs, chicken, pork, shrimp, beef and egg rolls. They’re all either $9.50 or $10.50 and are served in the medium-sized bowls. I chose the Grilled Chicken and Shrimp Vermicelli, a very large portion of rice noodles, slices of the grilled chicken, julienne of carrots, cucumber and cabbage, green onions, bean sprouts, and three nicely grilled shrimp, with a small bowl of chicken broth.
Mixing the veggies with the proteins, then pouring the broth over everything, resulted in a refreshing marriage of crisp, fresh veggies, with the tender pork and shrimp. It was simply delicious and as healthy a lunch as I’ve had in ages.
A dozen rice dishes and a dozen vegetarian offerings (between $9.50 and $10.50), and a half-dozen Banh Mi sandwich rolls ($4.95-$5.95) complete a diverse and enticing menu.
Like many Asian restaurants, the dessert menu is sparse, but includes several milkshakes and six flavors of French macarons (which were undercooked, gummy and very hard to bite into).
So go, enjoy, try this healthy and delicious cuisine, and let the slurping begin.