Vietnamese in Orlando

Clear Filters
Loading...
3 results

    If you've ever seen the movie "Tampopo," you're familiar with the delicate balance among flavors, textures and ingredients that makes up a good bowl of noodles. We don't have a traditional Japanese noodle shop in Orlando (excuse me a moment while I weep), but amid the crowd of Vietnam-ese eateries in town, we now have Phó 88, which calls itself a "noodle soup restaurant."

    The phone is answered as "Beef Noodle 88," so take that as a hint; the specialty is various cuts of meat in soup, from very rare eye round and brisket to tendon and tripe. Nothing is wasted here. The restaurant is enormous, and it is made even more so by the great expanses of mirrors lining the walls, reminiscent of an exercise studio. The servings are large enough that you might need a workout.

    The wrapper on the chopsticks proclaims in Vietnamese, "Enjoy your meal." I have yet to find out the significance of "88." I asked our waiter, who asked the owner and came back to say, "It's a lucky number ... isn't it?" The number 8 is considered lucky to Vietnamese, and there are a few (unrelated) Phó 88s around the country, but just as many Phó 89s, 75s, 79s and 777s. So, it's hard to say where luck lies.

    While "phó" usually refers to beef soup, it literally means "your own bowl," as it's a meal that's not meant to be shared. You might want to share, though.

    As with Japanese noodles, clarity of broth is a sign of good phó (pronounced "fuh," not "faux"). The masses of very thin rice noodles come submerged in clear, delicately seasoned broth, either beef- or chicken-based. The chicken broth is particularly good, lightly seasoned with ginger and scallion. It's a shame that the chicken meat (I ordered a combo of light and dark on two different occasions) was kind of tough. Soups come in three sizes ($3.95 to $5.95), and the extra-large could easily cradle your head.

    Not to say that you can't stuff your head with other dishes. Shrimp, pork and crabmeat (which unfortunately is "faux") can be combined with egg or rice noodles ($5.25 to $7.75). Items that appear on most Vietnamese menus, such as pork and spring rolls on rice vermicelli ($4.95), are here as well -- along with "exotics" like shrimp paste on sugar cane, beef stew and various fried rice dishes.

    I advise eating in rather than ordering to go. The noodles tend to become a unified lump if not submerged immediately, and the portions of meat are not as large in takeout.

    Noodle shops are the fast-food joints of the Far East, and with Phó 88 in town, why settle for a burger?

    If I lived somewhere in the middle of nowhere I would be jumping for joy at the arrival of Pho Hoa, the new Vietnamese soup emporium that has moved in to the Primrose Avenue spot vacated by the Golden Lake restaurant. But with the many nearby family-owned Vietnamese eateries (including Pho 88, another soup place a scant 1.2 miles away), the addition of a franchise seems redundant. Truth is, a franchise is a relatively risk-free way of opening a new restaurant and sharing the company's national advertising.

    There are more than 90 other Pho Hoas and sister Pho Cong Lys, from California to Boston and Ontario to Kuala Lumpur. The chain emphasizes the "Health Conscious Choice" of its broth-based dishes. And although I could not find any exact nutritional information, there doesn't seem to be much danger in the beef and chicken consommés, with pieces of meat, noodles and a whole bunch of vegetables. A bowl here is sort of like having a soup, salad and main course all at once.

    There are more than 90 other Pho Hoas and sister Pho Cong Lys, from California to Boston and Ontario to Kuala Lumpur. The chain emphasizes the "Health Conscious Choice" of its broth-based dishes. And although I could not find any exact nutritional information, there doesn't seem to be much danger in the beef and chicken consommés, with pieces of meat, noodles and a whole bunch of vegetables. A bowl here is sort of like having a soup, salad and main course all at once.

    The sign looming over Pho Hoa reads, "The best Vietnamese food in town," and I can undeniably proclaim, "Not in this town." But the food ain't bad, and judging by the mostly Vietnamese clientele, rather authentic. The clear soup bases of beef or chicken are slow-simmered and delicately seasoned, even the beef broth is a lustrous golden color. The bowls come large ($5.50) and even larger ($6.50), loaded with rice noodles, mushrooms, and in the case of the chicken pho, bits of cauliflower and broccoli. The pho do bien chua cay (seafood soup, $6.50) finds squid, tender scallops and a bit of fish floating amongst the noodles, a savory combination that unfortunately included the dreaded "fake crab." Tell them to leave it out if at all possible.

    The sign looming over Pho Hoa reads, "The best Vietnamese food in town," and I can undeniably proclaim, "Not in this town." But the food ain't bad, and judging by the mostly Vietnamese clientele, rather authentic. The clear soup bases of beef or chicken are slow-simmered and delicately seasoned, even the beef broth is a lustrous golden color. The bowls come large ($5.50) and even larger ($6.50), loaded with rice noodles, mushrooms, and in the case of the chicken pho, bits of cauliflower and broccoli. The pho do bien chua cay (seafood soup, $6.50) finds squid, tender scallops and a bit of fish floating amongst the noodles, a savory combination that unfortunately included the dreaded "fake crab." Tell them to leave it out if at all possible.

    The big adventure is the beef soup (which is what "pho" means). To the basic dish is added any number of beef cuts, from steak, brisket and meatballs ("For Beginners" on the menu) to tendon, bible tripe (so named because it looks like the pages of a book) and flank steak, either "fatty" or "crunchy" (cooked by the heat of the soup or well-done).

    The big adventure is the beef soup (which is what "pho" means). To the basic dish is added any number of beef cuts, from steak, brisket and meatballs ("For Beginners" on the menu) to tendon, bible tripe (so named because it looks like the pages of a book) and flank steak, either "fatty" or "crunchy" (cooked by the heat of the soup or well-done).

    I will enthusiastically recommend the blended drinks, in particular the avocado one ($3.25). It looked like soft-serve pistachio ice cream and tasted like frozen guacamole.

    I will enthusiastically recommend the blended drinks, in particular the avocado one ($3.25). It looked like soft-serve pistachio ice cream and tasted like frozen guacamole.

    The etiquette of pho calls for an abundance of seasoning and supplementing. There's hoisin sauce for a sweet and spicy kick of garlic and soy; sesame oil for a mellow fragrance; basil leaves, coriander, bean sprouts and jalapeños for crunch, bite and heat; and the ever-present red chili sauce. Try being adventurous and slurp it down -- it's OK to slurp here.

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2019 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation