Why: UnPhogettable opened approximately a month ago in the strip mall on the corner of Highway 99 and Northeast 99th Street in the space once occupied by 7-Eleven. It brings another fast-casual, family-friendly restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese dishes to Clark County and is open seven days a week.
What I tried: My dining companion and I chose the beef short ribs to start. We settled on the Bun Xao Chay, the Pho Chin Nam and the grilled pork Banh Mi to complete our meal.
The beef short ribs are cut across the bone, which leaves a bone disc in each piece. The portion was generous enough to share among three people, and the meat was deliciously marinated, but it was quite fatty and difficult to eat.
The pho we ordered was made with brisket and flank. Again, the portion was large, even for a small bowl, and the flavor possessed that traditional aromatic appeal, but the meat was very fatty, which made it problematic to eat given the size of each piece of meat.
Bun Xao Chay is a vermicelli noodle dish with barbecue fried pork sausage. The dish comes with shredded iceberg lettuce, cucumber sticks, bean sprouts, julienne carrots, crushed peanuts and mint leaves, as well as a portion of fish sauce. The slices of sausage were interestingly square and reminded me of Spam. The flavor was very mild, and I would not have known it was barbecued but for the menu’s description. Overall, this dish was so-so.
Dining out guide: UnPhogettable
Where: 9900 N.E. Highway 99, Vancouver.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
UnPhogetable 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.
The biggest disappointment of the meal was the grilled pork Banh Mi. Done right, I enjoy these sandwiches. I did not experience this at UnPhogettable. The sandwich contained a single stick of cucumber spanning the length of the bun, as well as a pepper, just a few (I could count them on one hand) julienned carrot pieces, and a portion of fatty pork and liver mayo that I had to open the sandwich to see. It was garnished with a sprig of cilantro. I compared it to the picture on the menu — obviously a stock photo and not even a close representation. The photo had, at least, four times the amount of meat, a plentiful balance of vegetables, all of which held the bun apart to an appetizing distance.
Menu highlights beyond what I tried: Salad rolls, coconut prawns and egg rolls are available. Pho comes with chicken, seafood, shrimp, flank, brisket, tripe, tendon and meatball, or vegetable options. Rice dishes are served with tomato and cucumber. The protein choices — beef, chicken, shrimp, pork, seafood and sausage — span the menu categories of traditional Vietnamese dishes.
Atmosphere: The first impression is appealing. It has a clean, open atmosphere with a bar-style feature in the center, where the cashier faces the entrance and seating wraps around. Large-screen TVs are mounted above for viewing from every table. Wood wainscot on the walls provides a handsome border, and walls are painted gray and white. Lighting consists of decorative brass shades above tables and halogen track lights elsewhere. Condiments are available at each table. The floor is sealed concrete and the ceiling is open to structural elements and painted gray. Tables and chairs are contemporary style in contrasting wood tones.
Other observations: I met my dining companion at the restaurant and ordered a Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk while I waited. I will never understand why a dine-in customer is served coffee in a to-go cup. This was the case here, and I had to ask for a mug to pour it in. Unfortunately, the coffee was not piping hot, either, though it did have that wonderful flavor that I am very fond of. If you have never had Vietnamese coffee, it tastes similar to Werther’s coffee candy. The service was attentive and the atmosphere is comfortable, but regarding the food, there is room for improvement in the selections I chose.
Cost: Appetizers cost $5.50 to $7.95. Sandwiches are $5.95. Fried rice costs $11.50. Pho options are $9.95 for the small bowl and $10.95 for the large bowl. There is also the House Special soup for $12.95. Kitchen specialties are $12.95. Entrees are $11.50 and $11.95. Rice dishes are $11.95 and $12.95. Vermicelli noodle options cost $11.95 and stir fried noodle options are $11.50.