We are blessed in Cleveland to have a diverse Asiatown. Our Asiatown is so named because it includes a large number of restaurants representing many variations on Asian cuisine. We also have some excellent Asian restaurants on the East and West Sides of Cleveland. But New Year's Eve day brought us to Asiatown, with its free parking and awesome Pho options, for a pre-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lunch.
I'd been to Superior Pho back when it was Pho Hoa (and the owner subsequently received a "cease and desist" letter from a national Pho chain with the same name and no outlets in Ohio, prompting the name change to channel its street address) and the chairs were metal folding chairs. Had a fabulous lunch - but I just hadn't gotten back. The only Pho experience Bob had in Asiatown was the cross-intersection rival Number 1 Pho. We'd had a nice lunch, but not an "omigosh we need to get back here" great lunch.
I'd won 2 tickets to the Rock Hall at the Rock N Roll BBQ Throwdown July 26. They expired 12/31/09, and that's when we intended to use them! But first - sustenance! We got that - and much more, at the fabulous Superior Pho, 3030 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44114, 216-781-7462 (no website). The chairs have been replaced with more sturdy, comfortable models!
We began with beverages. Bob ordered the Vietnamese Coffee, I ordered tea.
Coffee Brewed Tabletop
Bob, who was caffiene-deprived by the time I took these photos, really liked the strong, freshly brewed coffee. I took no photos of the tea - it looked like, well, tea. The menu described it as Jasmine tea. But it wasn't. It was rich and creamy, with hints of vanilla and coconut flavors. I asked our server, who at first insisted it was Jasmine, then said something about Lotus. He seemed afraid that if he said anything other than Jasmine, that I wouldn't like it (I assume there was a rational basis for that fear, like non-Asian customers sending it back). All I know is that it was mighty, mighty fine tea, and accompanied the food perfectly on a cold day. And I told him so.
Cleveland's own Iron Chef, Michael Symon, has sung the praises of Superior Pho's Bahn Mi, or Vietnamese Sandwich, so Bob and I knew we'd be sharing one. I asked him to hold the cucumber, and with a surprised look, the server said "ok." I guess they don't get a lot of requests for that.
Banh Mi Thit (Vietnamese Sandwich on crispy French bread with homemade pate, roasted pork, no cucumber, fresh herbs, and mayonnaise sauce)
As in most things culinary, the Iron Chef was spot on - creamy pate, housemade meat, zingy sauce and crispy bread - a little bit of heaven on a bun. And a bargain at $3.95.
Bo Bia (Rice paper rolls with Lap Cheong (Chinese Dried Sausage), Fried Egg, herbs, lettuce, rice noodles)
Note the sear on the Lap Cheong, which helped to bring out the flavors.
Forget the Pho - I could have eaten a bowl of this peanut-sesame-soy infused dipping sauce!
Well, don't forget the Pho - we ordered the "small" bowls ($6.75 each) and found the portions more than ample. But more than that - the textures and flavors were simply perfect.
Pho Accompaniments - Bean Sprouts, Vietnamese Mint, Jalepeno Peppers, Lime
Pho Chin nam gau (noodle soup with eye round steak, fat brisket and flank)
Bob's selection was wonderful - tender meats, perfectly seasoned beef broth, and rice noodles.
Pho Bo Vien (Noodle soup and meat balls)
The meat balls were a total contrast to the braised meats in Bob's dish - more toothy in texture, and less pronounced in flavor. But a gentle swipe of Hoisin Sauce and Sriracha paste from the table gave the meatballs the flavor balance they needed. I loved the beefy broth and crisp greens, and of course, the rice noodles.
We both loved playing with the Vietnamese delicacies served up at Superior Pho. I can't wait to go back. (Well, what do you know - a business meeting is scheduled there this week!)
Superior Pho remains a simple, family owned and run place at the back of the Golden Plaza. But the food, perfect for this snowy and cold time of year, is served with heart and soul along with the hoisin and Sriracha on the tables. We had fun playing with everything we tasted, and can't wait to sample more!