I wanted to report on my meal @ Baltimore Pho (1114-16 Hollins St, Balto 21223. Tel# 410 752-4746). Open Mon-Sat for lunch and dinner - bar stays open until...
Baltimore Pho is right opposite Hollins Market on the other side from Zella's Pizza.
The Short: Friend and I went for lunch today and thoroughly enjoyed our meal, so much so....we will MOST DEFINITELY be back!
In the space that was the Cultured Pearl, they've done a nice job with the renovations. I know that many restaurant owners feel the pressure from investors to open ASAP and IMHO many open far too early, and sadly the kinks or the little fixes can be glaring and detrimental to encouraging repeat business. We've all been watching this space for BP to open and I'm glad that they took their time. If you've read my posts in the past you'll know that i've griped about ethnic places in Baltimore that are less than hip or swank: the tired bamboo/fake plants/ethnic-dress same same that seems to permeate these dining rooms. But no more! Lots of light, lots of face brick, strong bold colours and plates that work/fit the table - this was a major issue @ RA last night (we could barely fit the three plates on the table w/ our drinks and sushi accessories comfortably). The lighting is subdued and the decor is tasteful and whilst 'ethnic' - reflective of the cuisine - artistic and subtle. There are two rooms - bar and dining. The bar runs along the left side of the room and looked to have a decent selection of wines and liquor (including top shelf), on tap: Miller Lite, BlueMoon, Yuengling and...can't remember the others. The dining room on the right had 10-15 tables. It's not big.
Our server brought us a bowl of keropok to start (prawn crackers) - which was a big hit w/ me. A childhood favourite they were served with house-made fish sauce; very tasty and sizzling and cracking when dipped into the sauce. Not a dieters delight - prawn flavoured flour crackers deep fried. YUM!
We started off w/ the Vietnamese Summer/Rice Paper Rolls, Fish cakes and Chicken Satay (app's ~$6)
The summer rolls were deelightful, two in an order they were compactly rolled and the ingredients weren't diced up or shredded too thinly. Left long they had a very artistic look to them and were quite tasty, served w/ dipping sauce. Chicken satay was pretty good - grilled chicken served w/ house made cucumber and peanut sauces. But the real start was the fish cakes. Simply the BEST fish cakes i've had in a while, they tasted homemade with outstanding chilli, green onion and fish flavour. These are NOT coddies or remotely similar in consistency, so if that's what you're expecting then you'll be disappointed. Fish cakes have a rubbery texture, but these weren't chewy or tasteless. Three in a portion they are cut into strips and served w/ dipping chilli sauce - i could eat these alone as a snack.
We shared a bowl of Pho ($8) - Rare. Served w/ the usual accompaniments it was pretty good, but not the best. The broth lacked depth, although once we loaded it up w/ the house fish sauce, fresh chilli's and hoisin, it was much better. Still, I would go back again and order the Pho - it certainly beats the drive to Columbia and overall is far superior to the Saigon Remembered in Govens.
Overall the menu is a lot smaller than other Vietnamese places around, the mains center on Pho - WD, Rare, Meatball, Combo (pork, chicken, fish cakes - i'm trying this one next time), Chicken and Vegetarian. A selection of Bun dishes - sort of like Pho, minus the broth but w/ the side dish of accompaniments and beef stew.
We finished off w/ Vietnamese Coffee ($3) bc we couldn't fit dessert in, but we were tempted - fried icecream - another childhood fav.
I checked out the dinner menu and it's pretty similar w/ a couple of added extra's plus they have a family style meal with three apps and four entrees (i think that was it), with rice for $33 pp, minimum 2 person order.
I also want to mention the service - it was great. Attentive enough that we got water refills and beer refills and plates taken away as they were demolished but not intrusive. The staff were all extremely nice and friendly. They've had a great response on the weekends so lets hope it continues. Whilst we were there two other tables came and went, granted we were also on the later side of lunch.
All in all, we spent $46 before tip and that included 3 draft beers. Money well spent. I hope that they get the support and do well - be nice if something along these lines could open up in Fells/Canton - why oh why don't we have a noodle joint closer to home????