Thursday, January 29, 2009

You Don't Know Pho Until You Know Pho Yen Hoa

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 9:17 AM

This cold and dreary weather had me hankering for a big,

tasty bowl of Vietnamese pho. For those who don't know pho (pronounced "fuh",)

it's a clear beef broth, generally served in a big bowl with noodles, thinly sliced

beef, meatballs and onions, with garnishes of fresh basil, cilantro, bean

sprouts and a lime wedge.

I've always thought that Miss Saigon on Charlotte had the best pho in town, followed

closely by Kien Giang, which is located in the same strip mall.

When I cruised out to Miss Saigon with my pal Brantley

Hargrove, I was disappointed to find the place closed for lunch, and then

doubly disappointed to find Kien Giang similarly shuttered. (A sign on the door

of Kien Giang said they were remodeling and wouldn't be open till mid-February.)

I was experiencing that special kind of unhappiness that

comes from a food wish unfulfilled, when, as we pulled onto Charlotte, I

noticed a small restaurant called Pho Yen Hoa, located at

the bottom of the little hill that Miss Saigon and Kien Giang sit atop.

Brantley and I decided to give the place a shot and I'm very

glad we did. I think I've found my new favorite Vietnamese in Nashville.

The meat in my Pho was sliced thin and piled high. The last

few slices of steak were actually above the broth-line and they sat red and raw

like a delicious beef-burg. They cooked instantly upon being stirred in the

piping-hot broth, which was redolent with sweet notes of lemonrass.

Brantley ordered a bun dish, another Vietnamese staple

consisting of cold vermicelli noodles, fresh lemongrass and basil, topped with

a combination of meats. His had roast pork, grilled shrimp and sliced

Vietnamese egg rolls. The pork was of good quality, definitely a loin, and had zero

fat. I didn't try his shrimp, but when I asked him how it tasted he said, "Fuck,

these are really good."

I almost forgot that we started the meal off with a pair of

rice paper rolls filled with vermicelli noodles, sliced pork and shrimp. These

things were stuffed to bursting, definitely bigger than at the other two

restaurants, which I still think make great food all around.

The Pho Yen Hoa menu wasn't nearly as extensive as those at Miss Saigon and Kien Giang, but it had a few things that I'd like to go back and

try, like this fish stew for two served in a hibachi-like contraption. It

looked both fun and delicious.

If you've been to these three restaurants, I'd love to hear

your thoughts on the comparison.

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