Pho Hanoi: Worth the Trip
Six minutes from downtown Portland, just over the Casco Bay Bridge, is a little gem called Pho Hanoi (171 Ocean Street, South Portland, Maine). The restaurant serves a plethora of delicious noodle and rice dishes. Fantastic for lunch, and equally great for dinner, Pho Hanoi is a frequent choice for me on any day of the week.
Pho Hanoi is my take-away destination, even though they have a spacious modern dining room. You would not know it looking from the outside, but the place feels like an authentic asian noodle-bar. Nestled between a bar and some closed up shoppe, I drove past it on many occasions without ever giving it a second look.
The menu has a large number of simple dishes, but all are prepared fresh and always consistent. My favorite dinner is the "#two and #twenty", a shrimp spring roll and their mixed meat vermicelli noodle. The nice thing about take-aways is that I can enjoy the comfort of my own home and liquor cabinet. For me, a home-made margarita made with fresh-squeezed lime juice and Herradura Tequila takes the meal to a whole new level.
I enjoy the simplicity of fresh-spring rolls. At Pho Hanoi they are accompanied by a peanut-paste (as opposed to sweet-chili sauce you find in many other places). It is a simple, delicate, and flavorful mouthful of lettuce and shrimp. Their eggrolls are equally tasty, and far from the typical fried roll many "Asian" restaurants serve.
So far I've found all the dishes to have a good amount of vegetables; for example, the broths come with a bag of bean-spouts. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the noodles rest on a serving of shredded lettuce, so the entire dish is flavorful and vibrant. Sriracha helps deliver that extra kick at the diner's discretion.
I tried to compare my view of Pho Hanoi with others online before writing, and was seriously puzzled by less than favorable reviews of this restaurant. To my knowledge, there is no Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Portland to even make a comparison to. Pho Hanoi's dishes are well priced, reasonable portions, and full of flavor. Best of all, because they are balanced and fresh, there is nothing to feel guilty about. Admittedly, I've felt so "not-guilty" that I've made two trips in one day.
- Tags: Vietnamese