Pho Hanoi - New Vietnamese in SoPo
It appears I have the honor of introducing "Pho Hanoi" at: 171A Ocean Street, South Portland to the NNE Chow community. While waiting at the light by Mill Creek Park, I noticed a new sign right next to Uncle Andy's. PHO HANOI - my jaw dropped. We have been waiting for decent ethnic food in the Mill Creek area for a long time. I quickly parked and went in to the space previously occupied by the disaster that was "fresh!", who thankfully vacated some months ago. An impossibly cute waitress gave me a couple take out/eat in menus and my wife and I are feverishly reconfiguring tonight's plans so we can try it.
We went back on Saturday and started with shrimp on sugarcane, fried squid, and fried egg rolls. Pretty cool ground shrimp wrapped around sugarcane shoots and grilled, but not remarkably flavorful. My wife loved the egg rolls and the fried squid was excellent - even my squid-averse wife agreed it was good. Mains were vermicelli bowl for her and large pho special for me. Not having had much pho before, I asked for some help in the custom, and may therefore have unwittingly unleashed the hounds - especially after the owner saw me chew and swallow the sugarcane (you are supposed to spit it out).
I agree that the pho was a bit light on the meats, and their quality didn't seem very high, but the broth, vegetables, condiments and flavors all around were a great experience. I noticed the tendon and tripe were better than when I had it on Cumberland Ave (I still haven't been to Saigon or Thahn Thahn's yet). We got out of there for about $50 (w/tax and 2x Sigha beer) and I'll definitely be back regularly for eat in and take out. BTW: It's definitely iced jasmine tea at the start of the meal, a nice touch.
I have been to Pho Hanoi three times now, last time with wife and child, and I am pretty certain that it is now my favorite Vietnamese place in the Portland area (although my 5 minute proximity to Pho Hanoi may have something to do with it). Bottom line is that everything I have ordered from there has been top notch. The Pho has such a rich, satisfying broth. This is the only place I've been to in Portland where I will consistently drain every last drop of broth out of the bowl. The appetizers have also been very good. The grilled pork spring rolls are fantastic. The girl that brought them out offered a home made garlic sauce to go with them, which was a nice touch.
Regarding the high price of the pho, I don't have a problem paying an extra 1 or 2 dollars for a good quality pho (which in my opinion is better than Thanh Thanh or Saigon's). If that profit margin allows Pho Hanoi to thrive in Mill Creek, then for me it is money well spent!
I also had a similar concern about the pho being light on meat after my first visit, but my concerns have since been alleviated--the last time I ordered a bowl I asked for the round steak on the side, and the plate of meat that accompanied my bowl was full. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of broth they serve. The bowls they in which they serve the soup have steep, high sides, so at first glance they seem somewhat small, but as you eat they seem bottomless. I think there's a lot of broth in those bowls.
Another thing that I particularly like about their pho is the "fatty flank" soup ingredient. The cut of meat is very tender and has a generous fat cap on it, which makes it very delicious.
My wife had the special Hue beef soup (can't remember the actual name) and she loved it. Very well seasoned broth. She said it was the best version of that soup that she's had.
I am concerned that they are not getting the amount of business that will allow them to stay open. Every time I've been there it has been empty. Of course, most people probably aren't eating at their local Vietnamese restaurant at 10:00 am....for me it's the perfect late breakfast!
Great place. Had two bowls of pho and a fresh shrimp spring roll. Food was very good. Like that the tap water was laced with jasmine, nice touch. Service was a bit overly enthusiastic, "Have ever you had this before?" or "Wow, where did you learn to use the chopstick?" or "Where have you eaten this before, that other place?" . . . couldn't get her to stop. It seems like she was amazed that anyone knew what pho was. The portions seem smaller than Thahn Thahn, but the bowl may be slightly deeper, I dunno. Definitely worth the visit.
A welcome addition to the neighborhood indeed. My husband gave it a try on Saturday. Not sure which Pho he had but said the broth was very good. He thought it might be light on meat but not sure if it was necessarily lighter than the other places. I tried the pork (fresh) spring rolls. Tons on flavor in the pork and the dipping sauce was quite garlicky and different than the usual sweet sauces you get.
We will definitely be back and hope upon hope the place catches on. One word of caution: apparently the take out menu numbers do not line up to the in-store menu, at least in the Pho section. So if you ordered #59 in the restaurant, that is #60 on the take out menu. ?? Hope that makes sense.
I had dinner there last night with my kids. Tried the pho (nice, flavorful broth; though a bit pricey at $7.50 - $9.50 and the medium bowl I ordered for the kids didn't have tons of noodles or tons of meatballs (like 6 half-meatballs, considerably less than what you'd find in Thahn Thahn's pho)). Also tried the grilled pork with rice (the rice was great, with a nice garlic flavor, and the pork was cooked well and tasty) and a shrimp salad with Asian herbs, peanuts, sprouts and greens with a light dressing.
All in all, an enjoyable meal. We'll definitely be back and it's great not to have to drive over the bridge and then all the way down Forest Ave for our Vietnamese fix. I'd really have to try the pho here side by side with those offered Thahn Thahn and Saigon to determine which is better, but certainly given the convenience, Pho Hanoi holds its own.
Unfortunately no bahn mi on the menu. Maybe they'll add it with enough customer requests? It's a big reason we sometimes choose Saigon over Thahn Thahn when out on Forest.