Monday, February 6, 2012

Fun Playing With East Side Pho

Happily for East Siders, a new, family owned Pho option has recently emerged in the nearby suburb of Woodmere (right next to Beachwood) that has a nice atmosphere for dining in and pretty good food at reasonable prices. Bowl of Pho opened quietly, late in 2011. After three lunches there, I can recommend it for fun playing with Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) and some other tasty offerings. 27339 Chagrin Blvd, Woodmere, OH 44122, phone 216.831.1730.

The first lunch began with my favorite flavor of Asian Bubble Tea. This drink consists of strong brewed tea, an added flavor of choice (mine was taro), generously sized balls of toothy tapioca, and in this version (according to the menu) - non-dairy creamer. Whether the latter was a nod to the considerable Jewish population in the area (who might be less comfortable mixing dairy with meat) or not, the replacement of the more typical cream or condensed milk with the non-dairy product is probably why both the texture and taste suffered. Koko Bakery offers a far tastier Taro Bubble Tea. However, one must travel to Asiatown to procure it.

For that first lunch, my dining companion and I ordered very similar dishes. He opted for the Phở Tái –  rice noodles and sliced beef eye round (cooked rare or well), garnished with cilantro and thinly sliced green and red onions. I went for the more adventurous Phở Đặc Biệt – deluxe beef noodle, which for a dollar more included rice noodles, sliced beef eye round (cooked rare or well done), meat balls, flank steak (cooked well-done), beef brisket, and tendon, and was likewise garnished with cilantro and thinly sliced green and red onions.

First out to the table was a plate of garnishes for both diners:

Whether deliberate or inadvertent, I appreciated the "yin-yang" look of the chili paste and hoisen sauce.

Above is the regular beef, cooked rare.

And above is the deluxe, as delivered to the table.

Add jalapeno, bean sprouts, basil and a spritz of lime. 

While the overall impression of the dish won't make me forget the richly complex broth offered by Asiatown's Superior Pho anytime soon, this was a very satisfying bowl of pho. I would have liked it a bit hotter in temperature, which our excellent server apologized for when I mentioned it to him (in response to his question about how we enjoyed the meal as we were paying the check). I have every confidence from his response that had I said something when the bowl was delivered to the table, it would have been rectified; I had chosen not to interrupt the flow of the lunch earlier. 

Different beverage selection for the second lunch:

According to the menu, the Thai Iced Tea is also made with non-dairy creamer rather than the traditional condensed milk. This drink did not suffer the same funky textural issue as the Bubble Tea had, and the taste was most enjoyable. 

My second dining companion opted for the same dish as my first dining companion had:

Phở Tái 

I wanted to change things up a bit, so after the same condiment service as before, 

the following bowl appeared:

Phở Gà – Vietnamese chicken noodle soup

This soup, served piping hot, luxuriated with flavors and textures, though the all-white-meat chicken itself was a tad bland. I actually liked this soup more than the Pho, but I want to try the Pho again at a hotter temperature before making a final judgment about it.

After garnishes added

My dining companion was in the mood for a sweet ending, so we decided to share a dessert.

Chè Khoai Cao – Sweet taro dessert

The menu describes this dish as "slow cooked taro roots with tapioca and coconut milk."  Served warm or cold (we had it warm), this was a most unusual offering. We both enjoyed it, and I'd happily eat it again, but it is not your typical sugar-sweet dessert - more of a creamy dessert soup, which is not uncommon in Asian culture. Had you been overly generous in your application of chile to your entree, this would be a perfect way to put out the fire.

For the third visit, the Pho was back on my radar, but then it hit me - this was Friday. Bowl of Pho offers a couple of items as "weekend only," and there was one that I very much wanted to try - and so, while my dining companion, for the third straight lunch ordered the Phở Tái (each of the three gentlemen was, after all, trying Bowl of Pho for the first time, so no surprise that they went for the signature dish), noodles were not on my plate this time!

The meal began with a beverage - this time, hot Jasmine tea. The menu kids not when it describes this drink as "Jasmine Hot Tea Pot:"

This tea pot was not only hot, it was heavy! The cast iron meant that the tea, which needed to brew from leaves, came to the table hot and stayed hot.

And after the first pot was consumed, a second pot was offered. Nice!

Since they are already included twice, the photos of the condiment plate and Bob's soup are omitted here, and up next is the weekend-only special item:

Bánh Xèo – Meat Crepe
According to the menu, the Meat Crepe is a "Vietnamese crepe stuffed with shrimp, lean pork, and bean sprouts. Served with mint, coriander, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, and house lime sauce on the side." This made-from-scratch dish is worth a weekend visit to Bowl of Pho! 

The traditional way to eat this dish is to place a portion of the crepe and fillings into a lettuce leaf, top as desired with the tangy house-made carrot salad, cucumbers, mint, and coriander leaves, then roll up and dip into the lime sauce and eat!  

The crepe (made from egg and rice flour) was exquisite - light and airy, with a little bit of crunch from the grill. The proteins were equally tasty. The chunks of pork had been grilled to perfection, and the large-size shrimp (which bore no detectable traces of standard seafood chemistry in taste or smell) likewise tasted delightfully of shrimp and of the grill. 

This dish could easily feed two people if they started with an appetizer first. But this assumes that you'd be willing to share it! 

Bowl of Pho is a delightful new option for fun playing with Asian food on Cleveland's east side. They are open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday. Though their on-line menu suggests the availability of alcoholic beverages (and the space contains a lovely bar area), it appears that all of the legals haven't been worked out for that department just yet.

Service was exemplary during all three visits. So, if you are craving a Bowl of Pho and you don't want to schlep down to Asiatown to get it, head over to Bowl of Pho for fun playing with Vietnamese food!

Bowl of Pho on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Similar experience. Not excellent, but a good fill-in if you're really jonesin' for some Vietnamese.