Pho Boston, a restaurant, and A Dong, a supermarket, are real finds for lovers of Vietnamese food. Both are located in a strip mall off Route 71 in West Hartford. I was tipped off about the supermarket by a Vietnamese restaurateur in Danbury who told me that A Dong was the one of the largest Vietnamese-oriented supermarkets in the northeast. He was right: the size of the store matches the large Japanese and Korean markets that I have frequented in New Jersey. There is a good selection of many different Asian food items but those who like to cook Vietnamese food will be thrilled. This is the first market that I have found that actually labels "la lot leaves" and "kaffir leaves" among others; most Asian markets keep you guessing.
As impressive was the restaurant called Pho Boston in the same strip mall. It was lunch so my wife and I shared their special "Boston Pho" soup and a plate of chicken and lemon grass with rice. This was the finest pho that I have ever eaten. It is called "Boston Pho" to distinguish it from the other pho available on the menu. This soup was as rich and complex as traditional pho but with the added kick of spicy sate sauce undertones. It was filled with rice noodles, slices of rare beef, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro while the usual side plate additions featured bean sprouts, holy basil leaves, fresh chili and lime. The chicken and lemon grass had a serious kick to it and there was plenty of lemon grass in the light sauce. Surprising were all of the wonderful crisp vegetables in the mix: chinese celery, broccoli, red pepper, carrots and onions. Sometimes, I think that Asian restaurants fill dishes with a mix of vegetables to satisfy Western tastes. Not in this case. Many of the patrons are Vietnamese. Pho Boston is large and unpretentious and has a full bar. Lunch for two with tip was about $15 which included the large soup and the chicken and rice plate and complementary jasmine tea. Pho Boston is located at 144 Shield Street in West Hartford and A Dong supermarket is in the same strip mall.