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
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
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.