#148: Pho Vietnam Noodle Restaurant

For lunch today I visited one of the last Vietnamese restaurants on my list, Pho Vietnam Noodle Restaurant.  I’ve mentioned before that Vietnamese cuisine has been one of the more difficult ones for me to get into.  A combination of knowing next to nothing about Vietnamese food and ordering blindly from dense menus left me unsure and wondering if it’s really all it’s cracked up to be.  My Pho Hang experience got me a little closer, but I think I’m finally in now.

Pho Vietnam Noodle Restaurant is located next door to Khobkoon Thai Cuisine in Woodcreek Plaza, on the corner of Foothills and Pleasant Grove.  I arrived just before noon.  There was a couple finishing up lunch when I walked in, and someone was in and out to pickup a phone order towards the end of my stay.  Other than that I had the place to myself.  I was greeted immediately by the owner and his son (an assumption on both) and was led over to a table roughly in the middle of the good sized dining room.  They definitely have the larger of the two spaces in this building.  Khobkoon is pretty tiny in comparison.  The space is open and is nicely decorated with some plants, artwork on the walls and a curtain that hides restroom doorway with a little style.  Behind me was a large HDTV, which the owner offered to turn on for me at one point.  There was some Kenny G-esque music lightly playing, and I swear it was on repeat the entire time.  I was handed a menu (scanned PDF) and left to look it over for a few minutes.

I knew I would be ordering a bowl of pho, and I also wanted to try an appetizer.  I was considering spring rolls, egg rolls or a crepe, which I spotted a picture of while looking for information on this place before heading out.  I suspect the spring rolls would be great, as they have been everywhere so far, and egg rolls could be good but I was really curious about the crepe (Vietnamese crepe with pork & shrimp)[$5.99] so I picked that.  For my pho I kept it simple this time and chose a small with rare steak (#14, served with beansprouts, lime, basil and jalapenos)[$5.95].  Within a couple minutes I had the little plate of pho fixings already brought out.  I could hear the crepe sizzling away in the kitchen.  While I was waiting the owner came out and asked if I have ever had a crepe before, to which I replied “not a Vietnamese crepe.”  He explained that there would be a little bowl of sauce for dipping and it would come with veggies on the side.  He was extremely nice and seemed eager to explain about the food here and there throughout my visit which was much appreciated.

About 10 minutes after I had ordered, the crepe was delivered.  It was much different than crepes as I know them.  It was very crisp and much more solid in it’s form than the more common French ones.  I was easily able to lift the top portion up with just the corner of my fork to reveal everything inside, which consisted mainly of beansprouts, some shrimp and green onions.  I didn’t see any pork, but I think it was underneath the bean sprouts.  Along side it was a big pile of mustard leaves with cilantro, cucumbers and (I think) onions and carrots.  I didn’t taste them individually to confirm, but that’s what they looked like and the consistency was about right.  I was leary of the sauce at first since whenever I see sauces that look like it, it’s often a fish sauce or something like it and is super salty, overpowering, and just not my cup of tea in general.  I gave this a cautious sniff.  While I wasn’t knocked off my chair, it did seem to smell salty to me.  I first tried a bite of the crepe on it’s own.  No veggies, no sauce.  Texture-wise I really enjoyed it, but it was fairly bland.  I carefully dipped a corner of a bite into the sauce and gave it a try.  I was surprised that it was very mild.  It did add a touch of salty flavor, but also sweet, and it was not spicy.  I ended up liking it a lot and used probably half of the little cup. From a little online research, I found that this sauce is made from fermented soy beans.  After these first test bites I dug in, stuffing the crepe with most of the sides.  It was wonderfully crisp, both the crepe itself and the mustard leaves.  The beansprouts added additional crunch.  The shrimp were few, but tasty.  I didn’t really taste any pork.  I thought it was really good once I got all in with the sides.  It was a great, light starter, though probably big enough to easily share.

About 4 minutes into my crepe the pho arrived.  Despite being a small, it was a good sized bowl filled to the top with hot, steaming broth.  Just under the surface I could see a pile of the thin white noodles and some slices of steak.  Floating at the surface were sliced green onions.  The bowl was steaming a lot when it first came.  I focused on the crepe and let it cool off a bit.  Finished with that, I pulled the big bowl forward and got started.  Again, my first bites were of the bowl without any extras.  I loved it.  It was subtle and delicious, and smelled fantastic.  The steak had been fully cooked to a greyish brown color.  I think I might order this without any meat next time.  Each time I’ve found the beef to be ok.  The noodles were super slippery.  My mediocre chopstick skills notwithstanding, I was able to get a bite’s worth piled onto my spoon with some broth in it relatively easily.  Eventually I started adding some of the garnishes.  I dumped most of the bean sprouts in, ripped up one of the basil leaves, and squeezed in the little wedge of lime.  The bean sprouts added their crunch to the bowl and the little lime went a long way.  Finally, I decided to try out the dark sauce (which I later learned, from the owner, was hoisen) in the Siracha container.  The very small amount I added made a big change.  At first I kind of regretted adding it.  A rich, sweet soy saucy kinda flavor took over the bowl.  After a few bites I decided I actually liked it a lot though.  I ended up sipping all the remaining broth from the bowl after finishing off the noodles and beef.

I left feeling very satisfied and full from this good sized yet fairly light meal.  I thought the price was great. In addition, I also left already looking forward to my next bowl of pho.  I’ve even started looking at where I can go for lunch in Rancho (if you have a favorite out there, let me know!).  The very friendly service and tips provided by the owner were the best I’ve had in Roseville.  If you’re new to the cuisine like myself, I highly recommend this restaurant as he really makes you feel comfortable to ask about anything, know what you’re getting and how to best enjoy it.

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

#111: Pho Hang

Last night I took my third stab at Vietnamese food.  The first was for one of my earliest posts at Bo Bo Cafe.  The 2nd was at Asian Blossom, though just casually, for my first bowl of pho.  I’ve had a so-so impression of the cuisine so far.  I hadn’t been really impressed or turned off.  There are at least a couple more Vietnamese restaurants in Roseville so I’ll continue to give it a try and explore different dishes as I visit these, but I have to admit that I’m not super optimistic.  Pho Hang is a small/medium sized restaurant at the corner of Pleasant Grove and Highland Pointe (in the same shopping center as Chick Fil-A, Wal Mart and Sam’s Club) that obviously specializes in pho, a Vietnamese dish consisting of a hot broth with rice noodles and a selection of meats.

My friends, Anne & Justin, joined me for dinner.  This was their first time.  We arrived at about 8PM on this Friday night.    Only a handful of tables were occupied.  An employee on the far side of the dining room saw us and motioned to a table for us to sit at.  Once seated, a server greeted us and passed out menus.  I decided I wanted to give pho another shot and given this place had pho in the name it seemed fitting.  I went with a combination that was recommended in an article I read earlier that day, Phở Tái Bò Viên, which is rare beef & beef meat ball with rice noodle in soup.  We took a long time goving over the menu.  Anne & Justin both had some questions about what was in certain things and Anne asked for a general overall recommendation.  Our server, who was incredibly nice and patient, had a lot of trouble answering that question in particular.  He really wanted to go down a path of questions to see what she was interested in, but since she was completely unfamiliar with Vietnamese food, she was simply looking for any random suggestion.  She asked this way, hoping it would help him pick something, “if you were ordering dinner right now, what would you get?”  That didn’t seem to help.  Eventually she chose Bún Gá Nưởng (Grilled chicken & vegetable on thin vermicelli) and left it at that.  Justin ordered a similar dish with deep fried chicken instead of grilled – Bún Gá Chiên Dòn (Deep fried chicken & vegetable on thin vermicelli).  We also got a couple orders of spring rolls, some vegetarian and some with pork & shrimp.

For drinks we kept it simple.  Justin and I each had a Coke and Anne had a Heineken.  The coke arrived in a can with a glass of ice.  The can looked clean and was very cold so I drank directly from it.  Our spring rolls arrived in very little time.  They were light and fresh, and the peanut sauce was rich and delicious.  Soon a plate of garnishes for my pho arrived along with a small bowl of fish sauce.  I  can’t recall if I’ve ever tried fish sauce before.  I didn’t use it this night, but towards the end I dipped my fork in to give it a try.  It was a bit salty and had a distinctly familiar flavor which Justin identified as a kind of salty cheese cracker, which I decided was exactly what I was thinking.  It’s a very strange comparison, but at the moment it seemed to fit.  The garnishes included crunchy bean sprouts, thai basil, a slice of lime and a slice of what looked like a jalapeno, but may have easily been some other kind of pepper.

Not long after finishing our rolls the entrees started to arrive.  Anne’s grilled chicken was first up, followed closely behind by my pho, and a couple minutes later Justin’s deep fried chicken was last to the table.  Justin seemed to really enjoy the chicken, though I felt like he was less interested in the rest of the bowl.  Anne enjoyed her grilled chicken and obviously liked the rest enough to take the rest of the large bowl to go.  I had a bite of the chicken and thought it was really good.  It was tender and very flavorful.  It seemed to have a light and sweet marinade on it.

On to my pho, it arrived extremely hot.  The rare beef was already quickly cooking.  It was still a bit pink in spots but continued cooking as I started to eat.  After a short while it had achieved a uniform dull grey color.  The meatball(s) were cut up into large, bite-sized wedges.  I found these, as well as the rare beef slices, to be decent.  Neither were extremely flavorful on their own.  I found the broth and noodles to be the best part of the bowl  The broth had a very delicate and subtle flavor that I found hard to describe, but it was very good.  I put a small amount of been sprouts in for some crunch, and a bit of thai basil, which added a tiny sweetness.  About halfway through I added a small amount of sriracha sauce to see what it tasted like since I’ve never had it before and people seem to love it on everything.  I didn’t notice much of a difference and added more, but I think I went just a slight bit too far.  The broth now had a light red coloring to it after stirring it in and it had a heat that built over consecutive sips.  I thought the flavor was decent perhaps a little on the vinegar side, but the broth itself seemed to be good enough as is and, in hind sight, I don’t think it really needed anything else.

We each ordered a dessert.  Justin picked the fried banana ice cream while Anne went with just fried ice cream.  I asked our server what the sweetened beans were all about, and he told me that they put the beans in a glass and top them with half & half milk and ice.  I thought I’d give it a shot.  They had three different colors to choose from, as well as a mix with all three, which is what I picked.  It came out in a smoothie glass with several distinct layers, a spoon and one of those really wide straws you usually see with bubble tea from places like Lollicup.  Through this I was able to get at the beans quickly.  They were a little on the sweet side, but not overly so.  I thought that a perfect mixture of the ice, half & half and beans made for a pretty good flavor, though the texture was very strange.  After a while there was little to no milk left and the beans that remained on their own didn’t do much for me.  I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think that I would order one again.

Anne’s fried ice cream was pretty good.  It was just vanilla but was pretty tasty.  Justin had a couple scoops of the same vanilla ice cream along with what almost looked like egg rolls.  They were the deep fried bananas.  About half of the rolls were banana and the other half was coconut.  I’m not too big on coconut and I don’t think Justin is either.  We thought these were ok but the coconut was overpowering.

I’d say that this visit slightly improved my impressions of Vietnamese cuisine overall.  The spring rolls were fantastic, and I think I am starting to enjoy pho a little more.  I was also very happy with the service.  Though he had a lot of trouble recommending something, he seemed happy to answer the onslaught of questions and never seemed anything but patient and willing to help.  I would recommend Pho Hang as a place to try Vietnamese food out if you are new to it like myself.

Scanned Menu: Click Here


#70: Bambu Asian Cuisine

Tonight was the food truck roundup at Whole Foods in the Fountains, I hope you had a chance to go check it out.  I considered going down there and doing a post about it.  I think it would have been too similar to the Downtown Mobile Food Event about a month ago so I opted to visit Bambu Asian Cuisine instead.  Roseville subreddit regular Ridicusauce requested this one last week (do feel free to send me suggestions anytime, they help me figure out where to go when I have no idea what I want to eat).

I met up with some family at around 5:30.  There were about half a dozen tables occupied when we arrived.  It’s nicely decorated.  My brother had been seated for a few minutes when my mother and I walked in.  Due to this we may have missed the waiter’s introduction.  After looking through the menu for a few minutes he came by and asked if we were ready to order yet.  Not even close.  It’s a pretty large menu with lots of tasty sounding dishes and a page with Vietnamese options as well (we considered this briefly but decided to stick with Chinese).  My mom pointed out the Singapore Noodles (thin rice noodles, marinated tender chicken, shrimp and fresh vegetables in curry sauce).  At first I thought about countering with chow fun but figured ‘why not’ and agreed on it (spoiler: this was a great decision).  Lots of pointing and “that sounds good” later and we had picked out way more food than we really needed, but knowing it would probably be good for lunch the next day we went ahead and ordered.

My brother and I each ordered Thai iced teas.  I mentioned in the Khun Suda Thai Cuisine post that I’ve never felt able to commit to a whole glass of this rich beverage before, so this was kind of a first (I had one handed to me for free once while waiting for a to go order at a Thai restaurant, but that’s a bit different than choosing it to go with your meal).  They arrived first, and they were not pre-mixed, which I’ve never seen before.  I made a quick little video of me mixing it up because I was feeling squirly tonight.  Enjoy:

Of all the Thai iced teas I’ve had, this one was more on the rich side.  It was very, very good.  Spread out over the entire meal, it worked out rather well.  I was really happy I decided to order it instead of a soda.

First up we had a order of Buddha Rolls (Vermicelli noodle, lettuce, shredded tofu, bean sprouts and basil leaves, wrapped in rice wraps, served with peanut sauce).  These were a fantastic, super lite way to start out.  The peanut sauce was awesome, some of the best I’ve had.  I would absolutely order these again.  They reminded me of the rolls at Bo Bo Cafe, which were also very good.

After we were well into the rolls our main dishes started coming out, starting with the Singapore noodles and then the rest in rapid succession.  The table very quickly filled up.  As I took took my photo of the noodles, both my mom and brother commented on how good they smelled, and after I took a moment to check that out I agreed.  The curry sauce is very fragrant and mouthwatering.  The noodles were fairly light and had a tiny bit of heat to them.  They were insanely good!  If I hadn’t known how much food we still had coming I might have eaten half of the plate then and there, but I held off knowing that I would be enjoying it again tomorrow.

Next to arrive was Orange Chicken (crispy chicken, wok tossed in orange flavored sauce and spices).  I had originally considered ordering the General’s Chicken since you can’t really go wrong with that anywhere but we switched to the orange because General’s chicken was described as spicy, which my mom isn’t into, and I figured the orange would probably be just as good anyway.  It was definitely good.  It had a light, crispy batter and the chicken was tender and juicy.  The dark orange sauce was fairly heavy on the orange flavor, more so than other places I’ve had it, and it was excellent.  It had just a hint of spice at the end which I suspect could build nicely over consecutive bites.

My brother ordered the Szechuan Tofu (silken tofu, peas, carrots and green onion in spicy Szechuan sauce).  I have no idea what Szechuan sauce is, but the one bite I grabbed from this plate was fairly tasty.  I don’t dislike tofu but it’s not exactly at the top of my list when I think about food.  That said, if someone put this in front of me I wouldn’t have any problem eating all of it.  I’m pretty sure I’ve tried a similar dish at some point because the flavors were somewhat familiar.  The tofu was very lightly battered and had a tiny crisp to the outside.

Sweet & Sour Pork (marinated pork, stir-fried with pineapple, carrots, bell peppers and onions in a sweet and sour sauce) was next up.  It seemed like a no brainer when we ordered it and it was pretty good, I really have no complaints about it.  The pork was fried nice and crispy (yeah, we realized after the food arrived how much deep fried dishes we ordered, it was a bit much) and it was tasty overall.  My mom mentioned, and I realized that I was on the same page, that sweet & sour dishes are kind of boring when you put them next to several really good dishes.  We decided that Sweet & Sour pork/chicken/etc is a Chinese gateway food, it’s something everyone orders early on (I remember having it as a kid and loving it), but you eventually figure out that there are a lot more interesting things on the menu to enjoy.

Crispy Honey Walnut Shrimp (lightly battered shrimp, fried and tossed with sauce and honey glazed walnuts) was our final dish.  Wow.  I not a fan of using superfluous statements unless you have a really solid memory or data to back it up, but I’m going to go ahead and say it, this was the best honey walnut shrimp that I’ve ever had.  I’m pretty certain of that.  Crispy, creamy sauce, light honey flavor, enough said.  Order this.

To top all this off, even the fortune cookies were ridiculously great!  They were dipped in what I think may have been white chocolate, or maybe some sort of yogurt dip.  Either way it was an awesome change up from the usual boring cookie you get everywhere else.

Bambu was absolutely fantastic from start to finish.  I’m looking forward to my leftovers tomorrow.  The Singapore noodles and crispy honey walnut shrimp were huge winners here with the orange chicken and Buddha rolls coming in close behind.  I’m not sure if I would say that Bambu has beat out Rose Garden as my favorite Chinese spot in Roseville so far, but it’s definitely up there in a tie until I can get back to Rose and re-evaluate them.  I couldn’t have been much happier with this visit.

(I prefer to link to my own scanned menus or the restaurant’s official site when possible, but this site looks pretty accurate): http://www.allmenus.com/ca/roseville/284787-bambu-asian-cuisine/menu/dinner/