Currently, I live in Pho Heaven, aka the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. I can indulge my pho whims everyday and still not hit every pho restaurant in the area. Is there anything better? Soon, though, we will be moving from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon. We are moving for my husband J.'s job. When we were considering Portland, we knew almost nothing about the city and knew absolutely no one that lived there. Since then, we've visited twice, met some nice people, and explored the city fairly thoroughly. Before he accepted the job, however, I told J. that there was absolutely no way I was moving to Portland if they didn't have pho. I can't live in a city without pho. That simple fact would have been the deal-breaker for me.
So, on our first visit we went on a quest for pho. A Google search brought up Pho Van so we decided to check it out. It was a cold, dreary, drizzly day in Portland—the perfect day for a hot, steamy bowl of pho. When I saw the restaurant— an upscale bistro in the schmancy Pearl District — I was a little put off. My favorite pho places are dives in the middle of weird strip malls with bad neon signs, zero atmosphere, and no parking. This place was similar to The Slanted Door or Ana Mandara, two Vietnamese restaurants in San Francisco which are known more for their lovely decor than their food. Boy, were we pleasantly surprised.
The rare beef pho was superb. For me, pho is all about the broth. And this broth was IT. It was rich and beefy with just the right amount of sweet-saltiness. And, it was scalding HOT (tepid broth is another of my peeves). J. likes to grab the Sriracha before the bowl touches the table and makes the broth an angry red before eating. I like to taste it first. Then I add the slices of green chili, and if it needs more heat, I add Sriracha a drop at a time until the heat is juuuuuust right. We rounded out our meal with an order of the vegetarian imperial rolls which were tasty bites of deep-fried goodeness. They were stuffed with creamy mashed taro, mushrooms, and veggies.
We move in about 10 days and are looking forward to exploring more Portland pho restaurants. If any Portlanders are reading this, please share your suggestions. I especially am looking for a place that serves spicy beef noodles. The kind where the broth is already red and screaming-hot. So glad Portland has pho. That means that despite missing my friends and my beautiful city desperately, I can find happiness there.