Is there a street in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City that has more Vietnamese noodle soup houses per block than Nicollet Ave. between 25th and 29th Streets?
I doubt it.
The opening of Pho Hoa at 25th and Nicollet brings the number of Eat Street restaurants in that four block stretch that serve pho to ten, including Pho Tau Bay, Pho 79, Caravelle, the Noodle Bowl, Hoang Thien Y Deli, Quang’s, Vinh Loi, Jasmine, Jasmine 26, and Hien Deli.
Pho Pho Hoa is the first ethnic chain restaurant on Eat Street, part of a world-wide noodle soup empire that stretches from Seattle, Houston and Charlotte, NC to Montreal, Singapore and Seoul. The company, based in California, started in 1983 with a single noodle shop in San Jose, now has nearly 80 outlets.
I stopped in for lunch today, and the place was packed with a mostly Vietnamese clientele. About 19 different kinds of Pho are offered, ranging from a simple Pho Tai (steak pho) to Pho Chin, Nam, Gau, Gan. Ve Don – a combination of brisket, flank, tendon, and fatty and crunchy flank. I ordered the latter, and got a huge bowl of flavorful beef broth, with Thai basil, jalapenos, lime and bean sprouts served on the side. Very tasty – and very similar to most of the other versions of Pho I have had on Eat Street. I’d rate their cho gio (pork egg roll, $1.82) as one of the best I have had lately – very crisp and ungreasy, and with detectable bits of clouds ear fungus in the filling.
All of the beef phos, the tofu pho and the chicken pho are priced at $5.95 for the Premium size, and $7.25 for the Supreme Large. A special seafood pho with squid, salmon, shrimp and pineapple in a seafood broth are priced at $6.50 / $7.50, as is the banh mi pho bo kho – a carrot beef stew served with bread or noodles. Other menu offerings include rice plates and vermicelli bowls with various toppings ($6.95-$7.50) and a big assortment of Sinh To – smoothies, flavored with everything from avocado and soursop to mango and durian ($2.60-$2.84).
Pho Hoa, 2450 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 612-870-8000.