By: Lucy Bauer
On an icy, wet Friday and after a long week of monotonous work and Bistro salads, we were in search of something that would be warm, filling, and close by. Being a Seattle native, I am a self-proclaimed expert on rainy-day food. One of the first dishes that comes to mind is always pho (pronounced “fuh”), a Vietnamese rice-noodle soup with vegetables and meat and various toppings. Within a ten-minute drive of Trinity, we found Pho Boston nestled in a small plaza just off of New Britain Avenue on the way to West Hartford. We’d heard about it from some friends that went the other week, and were excited to try this classic Hartford restaurant.
For those of you who are familiar with Vietnamese restaurants, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it looked just like every other pho restaurant I’ve ever been to, which I took as a good sign. With it’s dim lighting, unattractive carpet, and oddly large amateur paintings of flowers, the decor was charmingly tacky. Because we arrived promptly at 5 p.m., we were given a table immediately. I was surprised at the popularity of the restaurant; there were quite a few eager diners already seated and enjoying their meals. As we perused the menu, we were given complimentary green tea to sip on. Despite the simplicity of the restaurant, the staff was very welcoming and did everything they could to make us feel comfortable.
With phở in the name of the restaurant, it didn’t take us long to decide on what to order. How could we pass pho up, with it being the name of the restaurant? We ordered both vegetarian pho with tofu, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower and chicken phở, with shredded chicken breast and veggies. The prices at Pho Boston were actually a little higher than I’m used to, but each bowl was still under ten dollars and came with tea. The chicken pho was a mere $7.95, and the tofu phở was just a little pricier at $9.50. Though we stuck to phở dishes this time around, the menu offers a wide range of authentic Vietnamese dishes such as seafood, pork, beef, or chicken entrees, as well as an entire section dedicated for vegetarians. All entrees are served with a side of white rice, and from the looks of what our fellow diners were ordering, it appeared to be more than enough food! They also serve typical rice-paper wrapped Vietnamese spring rolls as appetizers, and offer a wide-variety of bubble tea either to-go or drink with your meal.
The glory of pho is that no two bowls will be the same. Each order includes a plate full of bean sprouts, jalapenos, limes, mint, and cilantro. On the table is a variety of sauces, including plum sauce, Sriracha sauce, and pepper flakes. I always go for a handful of sprouts, lime, a lot of plum sauce, and a few drops of Sriracha. It requires more than one trip to find out how exactly you like your pho, but the personalization is key. Even my friends, who were less experienced in phở taste than me, were able to experiment with the sauces and create something delicious.
The service was incredibly fast, and when the enormous, steaming bowls of hot noodles and broth arrived, we all dug in. Both orders were delicious and had the perfect noodle-to-broth ratio. The only complaint we had was that the veggie pho could have had more tofu. The required use of chopsticks slows down the meal, though it ended up being a blessing in disguise considering the amount of food in the bowl. When and if you do finish the serving, you still won’t feel that “sick-to-your-stomach” full because the food isn’t too dense and instead leaves you feeling warm and satisfied.
The restaurant offers both a takeout option and a dine-in option from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., making a quick trip easy at nearly any time of the day. Whether you’re looking for warm comfort food or a cuisine experience to make you step out of your comfort zone, Pho Boston will fit the bill.