Located at street level of the Home 2 Suites by Hilton in Murray (4907 S. State) is a gem of an Asian eatery: Pho Saigon Noodle House 2. The “2” is indicative that this is the newer, sister restaurant to the original Pho Saigon Noodle House in West Valley, a restaurant I’ve loved for a long time.
Pho 2 offers a more modern ambiance than the original location, with vibrant colors in abundance and large photographic scenes of Vietnam as the main decor pieces. Solo diners might enjoy a bowl of pho or a bahn mi sandwich at the counter, or choose one of the many booths or tables to dine at. You’ll definitely want a tabletop if you choose one of the grill-it-yourself options – more about that later.
Service here is fast and friendly, but take some time to familiarize yourself with the extensive menu before ordering. There are seven bahn mi choices, some 25 or so different soups including pho, and over 25 rice and noodle items that aren’t soups or pho, plus appetizers, specials and hot pots. It’s a lot to take in.
In Vietnamese restaurants, spring rolls are always an obvious and smart place to start. And you won’t go wrong with any of the Pho Saigon 2 spring rolls: rice paper stuffed with ingredients like shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, crab, basil, mint and such. I especially like gỏi cuốn, which is two rice paper rolls stuffed with shrimp, pork, rice vermicelli, bean sprouts and greens ($3.75). It’s served with tasty peanut sauce for dipping.
Another very appealing dish to share is báhn xèo ($8.50). I’m told that bahn xeo translates as “sizzling pancake” for the sound the rice batter makes when it’s fried. Báhn xèo (also known as “happy pancakes”) is a sort of rice batter crepe, stuffed omelet-style with shrimp, roasted pork, sliced onion and bean sprouts, then fried until puffy, crisp and crunchy. Alongside and pancakes is a plate with garnishes such as cilantro, basil, mint, and Vietnamese dipping sauce called nước chấm, made with fish sauce, sugar, chilies and lime juice.
Of course, when in Vietnam … I had to try the pho, remembering how much I enjoyed it at the original Pho Saigon location. As I mentioned, there are 15 different pho variations available, and each of those can be ordered in small ($6.65) or large ($7.75) portions. I guess it’s all relative, but the small size isn’t very small, especially if you’re going to be ordering other items as well. Portions here are generous.
The are myriad pho permutations when you start considering the possible combinations of eye of round steak, flank steak, fatty flank, fatty brisket, well-done brisket, soft tendon, tripe, beef meatballs, and chicken. There’s also a vegetable pho and extra meats and noodles can be ordered for a small surcharge. In short, there’s a multitude of ways at Pho Saigon Noodle House 2 to have pho your way.
For a unique and fun style of dining, I suggest trying nướng vĩ, which means “grilling at the table.” For this experience, a server sets up a portable gas grill on your table and offers a quick primer in tabletop grilling. Priced at $19.95, you get everything you need to get grilling: warm rice noodles, rice paper wraps (which are dipped in water to soften then stuffed like tacos or burritos), a platter loaded with basil, cilantro, lettuce, carrots, cucumber and bean sprouts, a plate of thin-sliced raw beef and shrimp marinated in a sweet soy sauce with Vietnamese spices, and julienned white and green onion, all topped with white sesame seeds.
There are pats of butter provided for lubing up the hot grill. So, you add the butter first, followed by thin-sliced beef and shrimp, and cook them to your satisfaction before enjoying the beef and seafood wrapped in rice paper and customized to your specifications with all or any of the tasty accouterments. It’s a delicious way to eat and about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.
Culinary quote of the week:
The Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. … as something that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon.
— Anthony Bourdain
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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