If I invited you out for a steaming bowl of Pho Xao, you might ask about the ingredients. The dish sounds very unfamiliar — at least to Westerners.
This Vietnamese dish consists of stir fried pho noodles and a seemingly endless string of possible ingredients that ranges across a delicious spectrum of texture, flavors and spice.
Pho Xao became a favorite of Thailand Prime Minister Luang Phibunsongkhram during his tenure in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He renamed the dish Pad Thai, part of his campaign to boost the Thai economy by reducing domestic rice consumption and increasing rice export by selling more pho noodles. The dish became popular to native Thais and is now considered a national dish.
In 2011, a CNN reader poll found Pad Thai listed at number 5 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods.
So it was a clever move by Chef Tan to christen his new restaurant Pad Thai. It’s familiar, it’s widely accepted and, yes, it’s pretty darned delicious.
I forsake the eponymous dish on my recent visit though, knowing from previous reports that Chef’s Pad Thai is, in fact, excellent. Instead, I opted for Pad Kee Mao — a dish built on a bed of rice ribbon noodles — with chicken.
Getting food to the table hot is a real pet peeve of mine and on that point, Chef Tan scores 100 points for delivering a dish with gently wafting clouds of steam rising. He scored bonus points for presenting a plate with a beautiful carrot rose garnish and a thoughtful, flavor enhancing wedge of lime. I’m already swooning, and I haven’t had a bite.
And that first bite was a home run. The noodles were tender and rich with flavor form their quick swish through the wok. Big, nicely seasoned pieces of chicken were well-placed and were also tender and moist.
The balance of the dish reads like a tipped over basket at the farmer’s market: Onions, carrots, fresh basil leaves, scallions, bell pepper, snow peas, broccoli and wedges of bright red tomato. I spied a couple of those tiny ears of corn, detected pieces of egg fried with the dish and was impressed by the subtle yet present chili basil. The dish was preceded by a small fried eggroll that was also very hot and filled with lots of nice, fresh ingredients.
The restaurant, in the strip shopping center at the corner of White Bluff and Windsor Road, is bright, clean and tidy. Two alcoves offer cozy dining spots for small groups, families or business meetings. Noodle, stir-fry and curry dishes dominate the menu, but there are also about a half dozen Chinese–influenced choices, a selection of vegetarian specialties and regular offerings with fish and duck.
12409 White Bluff Road/335–2818
Construction has begun on the beer garden addition to Moon River Brewing Co. at the corner of Bay and Whitaker streets. Much progress was made in the past two weeks and I suspect we’ll be toasting St. Patrick in this well–deserved addition to the local brewpub.
Chinese New Year
This important national holiday for both Chinese and Vietnamese folks is on Sunday, Feb. 10. The Noodle Bowl on Hodgson Memorial Drive will be open that evening with two seatings to accommodate dinner and a show that will feature Dragon dancers. More details are being finalized. Reservations will be required.