This is -so far -the best Pho place I have found on Dorchester Ave. - in Fields Corner, Boston's "Little Saigon" Located at #1356 -phone 617/287-9746. Check out their web-site at : http://www.best.com/~phohoa/ You can get there by MBTA at the Red Line Field's Corner stop. A five-minute walk back towards Boston does the trick.
The first thing to do after you are seated is to check the daily specials (in English) on a small sign next to the cash register. They often have seafood specials.
The menu is extensive and breaks the Phos down into categories - "For the Beginners - Just the Regular - The Adventurer's Choices - The Fortifying Combos - Another Delicious Pho - Children's - Appetizers - Rice Plates -Noodles - Puddings" Lots of drinks are also offered.
This time I had the large Pho with eye-round steak, well done flank and marble brisket. The meat was perfect -cooked in the broth on the way to the table. It has cut-up scallions in the broth and I get it with onions. The side dish of bean sprouts, a cut lime, sprigs of fresh basil and a single hot green chili. I cut up the chili and basil leaves, throw away the stems and add to the soup along with the sprouts and the squeezed lime juice.. I scoop the broth with a flat-bottomed spoon and swirl up the noodles with a fork. I place a dollop of Hoisin sauce and a spoon of sambal on the empty bean sprout dish and dip the noodles in before tasting. You can flavor the broth as you wish from the condiment tray. I tend to leave the broth alone --unless I have a stuffy nose --then I add sambal and/or the red hot sauce.
The broth has a rich, meat scent and taste -it is made with meat bones, grilled ginger, and onion. The noodles do not have so much flavor for me -which is why I sauce them. The meat is outstanding compared to many Pho joints around Boston.
Pho Hoa has a flavorful chicken Pho - a marvelous beef stew (good winter dish) - Hue's Special Soup - the usual Chinese style dishes - several homemade puddings and fruit drinks. It's all good.
There are 31 varieties of Pho listed -and you can add meatballs, special onions, etc. to the Pho you order. Seafood Phos can be on the specials list.
The place is not large - most of customers are Vietnamese - the service is attentive and the atmosphere is replete with the usual recorded Vietnamese music. It's a Vietnamese neighborhood style Pho joint - not a Pho Palace. The focus is on the Pho.
One other thing - Fields Corner has another kind of Ho. If you eat at the Pho Hoa at the right time of day you can be offered physical therapy outside the station. Good way to get rid of some calories and dispose of some excess protein.
Last year I visited the nice Vietnamese outside shrine on Park St. It's an empty lot that has been turned into a garden with a towering white statue of Quan Yin -the female Buddhist deity. I stopped and took in the meaning of such a place in my old Fields Corner -where I went to Junior High School and began my sex education. Beside the shrine is a funky, brown "Three Decker" - I figured that the Vietnamese probably bought the place as an adjunct to the shrine and Vietnamese would be living there. I was wrong.
A voice sounded from the back porch -- there were two teenage girls checking me out. "What are you looking for, mister?" - I said, "I came to look at the statue - it's the patron saint of women. Do you know that?" One yelled down to me, " I know one thing -- We can do more for you than that statue can!"
Perhaps that's why Quan Yin has that Mona Lisa smile.
Fields Corner - the more things change the more they stay the same.