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[PDX] Pho Van on 82nd

Nick | Dec 23, 200402:40 PM

"The Street Foods of Vietnam" -- that's how they subtitle their re-opened spot on 82nd. Since I don't know what the street foods of Vietnam are, I can't say, but I can tell you what's new: hot pots and bo 7 mon, the seven courses of beef.

In actuality, they won't have those two options until next week. But I wasn't going to order them anyway. You can get the hot pots for one, but not the 7 courses of beef. They have like 20 or 30 options for the hot pots it looked like. (They didn't have a menu I could take yet.)

They've also added some favorites from the bistro menu, eg, the lotus salad and the banana blossom salad.

They still have pho, but it's only a small part of the menu. Still lots of grilled options over rice or noodles, too.

My eating companion and I got the honey-glazed wings, the banana blossom salad, the crepe, and the grilled lemongrass chicken over noodles. I'd give you prices, but I can't remember them. I need that darned menu. But nothing was over $9. I think we spent $32 total.

The appetizers were a bit small. The salad was probably half the size as the one at the bistro in the Pearl. Though I'm not sure of the price difference.

(You'd think Pho Van would have enough money for a website with their menus. Again, if anyone from Pho Van reads this, email me and we'll work out some trade. ;-))

There were only six wings for about $6. They were a little over cooked and just lightly coated in a sweet glaze.

The salad desperately needed a more aggressively seasoned dressing. It was much more bland than the one I've had in The Pearl. This may just be a result of new cooks. I had to add fish sauce. But the textures were nice and the blossom had no astrigency.

The grilled chicken and noodles was also bland and the chicken a bit dry. Quite boring dish really.

The crepe was better. As always, impressive for it's ginormousness (watched Elf again last night). It's the sizzling fajitas of Pho Van, carried so everyone can see how big it is and ask their server, "What's that?" But it's also quite good. The crepe itself has a nice flavor, a light and crispy texture, and the mixture of vegetables and chicken inside, while again bland and needing both fish sauce and chili sauce, worked well with the crepe. It's served with herbs and lettuce, also.

We finished with dessert, the banana bread pudding, which I really like. It has whole pieces of banana set in a fairly dense bread pudding. It's topped with crushed peanuts and served with a coconut milk and tapioca sauce that's only subtley sweet. The sauce really makes the whole thing perfect. One of the best desserts I've ever had in an Asian restaurant (the best maybe being Ring of Fire's coconut milk ice cream and fried bananas with honey), without being ridiculously French. The dessert feels like it belongs there.

A good meal overall, though I'd like the seasoning to be better, but at least the fish sauce and chili sauce is right there for adjustments. But I've probably liked my meals at Yen Ha more and I rarely have to add any seasoning to their dishes. And the prices at Yen Ha are great. But it's a dive and Pho Van isn't.

In fact, the new digs are nicer than those at the bistro location. It wasn't a bad spot before. Far from a dive. But it's near elegant now. They have nice wood booths (though they might fit an Asian butt a little better than mine), column/beam structures with a nice angular line to them, and fixtures that look like they're from one of the upscale lighting boutiques in town like Lux. It doesn't feel as "cold" as the old spot did. It's probably the nicest restaurant in that part of town. (Probably easily the nicest restaurant in that part of town, for good reason, considering the drug/hooker bust I drove past and the string of "lingerie" and porn stores.)

It was quite busy and half the people were white. I do wonder if there's a relationship between the bland seasoning and the number of caucasians. I imagine the lack of offal in the pho, the fact that they actually get recommended by newspapers and magazines, and the nice room all contribute. Wussy seasoning may just be a part of that.


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