January 14, 2016
I’ll never forget the first time I experienced pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs, spices and meat. I walked into a local Vietnamese restaurant and asked the waitress for a recommendation. She directed me to the pho section of the menu, and it changed my life. I am not exaggerating. I had never had anything like it, and I was immediately smitten with the complex flavors, aromas and textures of the steaming dish. Pho tai, which has become my favorite version, is simple in appearance, but rich in flavor, and is a cure-all for just about anything that ails you. I am serious. At the first sign of sniffles, go get some pho and it’s likely you’ll keep the sickness at bay – and if not, you got to enjoy a wonderful meal.
In general, Vietnamese food is steeped in tradition, and the care by which it is prepared shines through in every dish. Because the country experienced long phases of war and conflict, the majority of its people live in poverty, and, therefore, they use inexpensive ingredients, utilizing easily grown and readily available herbs and vegetables. But don’t mistake inexpensive for bland, low quality or unhealthful. The opposite is true. Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world because of its minimal use of oils and its innovative preparation of high quality fresh herbs, spices, vegetables and meats.
We are blessed in Fort Wayne with a nice selection of Vietnamese restaurants that serve pho (Saigon, Kim Vu and Banh Mi Barista), and now there’s a new kid on the block, Pho Viet, located in the Mike’s Donut location on Bluffton Road. Yes, you read that right. Pho Viet shares a space with Mike’s Donuts, a rather uncommon pairing.
Mike’s former co-tenant was a diner, and the décor inside has not been updated, so upon walking in, don’t be startled. You’ll be met with neon wallpaper and checkerboard floors – certainly not the typical Vietnamese restaurant ambiance, but there’s something pleasantly quirky about it. While it is an odd setting, the food is spot on.
One thing is certain: the food at Pho Viet is made with care. Each dish is a masterpiece unto itself. During my first visit I ordered my favorite, pho tai, and I was not disappointed. The broth was rich and flavorful. The vegetables were fresh and crispy. The meat was prepared and seasoned just right. I also ordered a serving of crab Rangoon, prepared to the perfect golden crunchiness and complemented by the savory sweet crab mixture inside. So, so good.
On my second visit I ordered a beef noodle bowl and was equally impressed. Loaded with colorful vegetables and well-seasoned meat, the dish also featured roasted peanuts (an ingredient I have not encountered in other noodle bowls served at local Vietnamese places) that lent the dish a robust nutty flavor. Prices are reasonable as well. A couple can enjoy a nice dinner out for less than $20, including that scrumptious crab Rangoon I mentioned.
I have been a long-time advocate for our local Vietnamese restaurants, and I gladly add Pho Viet to this list. Please make sure to visit soon to show them support. We need places like this in our city.