For those who have been living under a rock, pho is a Vietnamese-style noodle soup that has become all the rage in the United States. Even though Boise doesn’t have a large Vietnamese population compared to Seattle and Portland, pho shops are now starting to pop up across the Treasure Valley. It’s kind of hard to miss the national dish of Vietnam around here.
A good place to try this Indochinese specialty is at Pho Tay Vietnamese Noodles, which recently debuted in the former Taj Mahal spot at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Five Mile Road. The new Vietnamese eatery — just down the strip mall from Rotary Sushi — doesn’t try to reinvent the pho wheel. It pretty much sticks to traditional methodology.
Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is quite simple, really. Slices of meat (typically beef) come in a big bowl brimming with silky rice noodles, veggies and seasoned meat broth. The dish is customarily served with a side plate of herb sprigs and other fresh offerings for gussying up the soup. Pho in its various forms is a popular dining choice throughout Vietnam, especially late at night and early in the morning. There’s nothing like a steaming bowl of pho to stave off a gnarly hangover. Plus, it’s a good pick for all those gluten-free folks out there.
I remember when a bowl of pho cost around 4 bucks. Those days are long gone, though, thanks to rising food costs and overhead expenses. Restaurants surely can’t put out pho at that diminutive price anymore. But you will definitely get your money’s worth at Pho Tay, and it’s safe to say that you won’t leave hungry.
The sleekly designed restaurant primarily offers pho dac biet, which translates to beef noodle soup. A medium-size bowl ($11) is probably big enough for your average diner. A sizable ceramic bowl comes filled with a tangle of angel hair-thin rice noodles, tender slices of brisket and ribeye steak, julienne onion and scallion reeds, all bathed in house-made beef broth. You can add Vietnamese meatballs and beef tendon for no additional charge. I went for the squeaky meatballs but skipped the rubber band-like tendon. The clear-looking broth boasted a good, beefy flavor, yet it didn’t put off a pronounced essence of star anise and roasted garlic that I have become accustomed to while dining at pho shops in my hometown of Seattle. Nonetheless, it’s a decent bowl of pho, sided with basil leaves, cilantro, bean sprouts, cut limes and sliced hot peppers.
Not many places around town serve pho ga, otherwise known as chicken noodle soup with Vietnamese flair. Once again, a medium-size bowl ($11) will most likely suffice, unless you haven’t eaten in a day or so, then you might want to go for a large bowl. With this one, silky rice noodles and shreds of tender chicken get submerged in fragrant chicken broth, topped with fried onions, scallions and rough-chopped cilantro. A bowl of this stuff should cure the common cold, or at least give you some temporary relief.
On a spicier note, diners will also find bun bo Hue, a piquant, meaty soup that hails from the coast of central Vietnam.
Besides soup, the menu features a few time-honored Vietnamese entrées, banh mi sandwiches and appetizers such as deep-fried cha gio ($6), a plate of crispy eggrolls — filled with pork, crab, spindly wood mushrooms and clear cellophane noodles — served with iceberg lettuce leaves for wrapping and pungent nuoc cham (seasoned golden fish sauce).
“Dishin’ it” is an occasional visit to a local restaurant in which we focus on one dish.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pho Tay Vietnamese Noodles
Address: 10548 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Menu price range: appetizers and banh mi sandwiches $6; entrées and pho soups $7-$15.
Opened: December 2017