Emma Dance gets a taste of the Far East at new Vietnamese restaurant, Pho
My recent visit to Pho was a new experience for me in more ways than one.
Firstly, because I’ve never visited a Vietnamese restaurant and secondly, because I found myself staring at the menu feeling genuinely unable to make any kind of a decision. I’d heard of several of the dishes on the menu, but never actually tasted them. And everything – and I mean everything – looked like something I’d want to eat. From the Vietnamese salads, to the noodle soups to the wok fired noodles and the rich curries, there was not one thing that I wouldn’t have been happy to try. I think the panic must have shown on my face as it wasn’t long before Dan the assistant manager came over to help. He guided us through the menu, asking us about the types of food we liked and pointed us in the direction of dishes that he thought we’d enjoy.
At Pho you are encouraged to really interact with your food, and we had the chance to get stuck in straight away with our starters.
First to arrive on the table was a plate of Mực chiên giòn – fried baby squid (£6.95) – which had a sublimely light and crisp coating, and a salt, pepper and lime dip which we mixed ourselves – squeezing the lime to suit our taste. The Bánh xèo – a savoury crisp, Vietnamese crepe filled with chicken, prawn and vegetables – (£7.75) was even more of a hands-on affair. We had to cut off slices of the crisp, filled pancake and wrap them, along with herbs, in rice paper, and then dip the little rolls into sweet chilli sauce. It was messy and fun, and utterly delicious with every mouthful bringing a symphony of different textures and light, fresh flavours.
Since the restaurant is called Pho, we decided we should give the Phở (noodle soup) a go. My choice was Bún bò Huế – hot and spicy brisket beef (£8.75) chosen from the hot and spicy section with some extra pak choi (£1) while husband chose Bún riêu: a Hanoi classic; vermicelli noodles in a rich tomato and crab broth with wafer thin steak & tofu, topped with fried shallots (£9.95) from the House Specials section. Both came with a selection of herbs for us to add ourselves, and mine also had some chilli shrimp paste which added a lovely saltiness as well as extra heat.
Both bowls were huge, filled with rich, flavoursome broth and heaps of noodles, as well as soft morsels of meat, and we loved being able to add different herbs and condiments as we went along until we hit upon the perfect combination for our taste.
Although I’m pretty handy with a pair of chopsticks catching the slippery noodles proved a bit of a challenge, but the slurping and the mess just made the whole experience more amusing!
We finished up with some Vietnamese coffees and a Banh lá dứa – pandan pancake with roasted coconut (£6.25) to share. The pancake was a surprising shade of green (thanks to the green tea it’s made with) and was pillow-soft with the toasted coconut making it sweet and comforting, while the coffee was decadently creamy thanks to the condensed milk, and had a wonderfully chocolatey taste.
It might have been my first foray into Vietnamese food, but it won’t be my last. After all, I have the rest of the menu left to try!
28 Clare Street, Bristol BS1 1YA
0117 911 9739