A ton of restaurants are coming to Deep Ellum right now, and on Wednesday, Pho Bowl joined the fray with Vietnamese fusion.
At this counter-service spot, the food is fresh and comes out fast. The setting is cute and casual, with large tables that encourage diners to interact with each other. The combination of Thai and Vietnamese food — and the reasonable prices — could make this a popular place.
Bargain hunters take note: At Pho Bowl, you can get a banh mi for $5.50, and the most expensive meals top out at $8.50. There are American Chinese dishes like orange chicken and chicken fried rice, even a Korean barbecue dish with grilled short ribs marinated in lemongrass. A $5 banh mi to go can easily become a dietary staple, but the best option at Pho Bowl, obviously, is to build a bowl.
Start by picking a base. If you want it dry or if it's just too hot outside for broth to make any sense, go with white or brown rice, a desirable option because it comes with kimchi. There are also vermicelli noodles — basically pho without the broth, this dish features rice noodles with lettuce, cucumbers, pickled carrots, bean sprouts and cilantro. You can also choose a base of assorted mixed greens.
But seriously: Get the pho, the rice noodles in broth with sliced onions, jalapeños, bean sprouts, basil leaves, scallions and lime, but don’t get the regular broth. Yes, pho broth is the soul of Vietnamese pho — a delicate blend of ginger, star anise, beef bones and other ingredients that takes 12 hours or more to make. But at Pho Bowl, the curry-style bowl is a must-try. It's basically Thai yellow curry, which is surprisingly great with pho. This curry is thinner than what you would find at a Thai place, so it's not as filling. No one ever drinks the last bit of curry out of a bowl at a Thai restaurant, but it makes sense here.
Picked your base? Excellent. Now pick your protein: rare beef, brisket, beef ball, chicken or tofu. No weak links here, just a matter of preference. Iced Thai tea or Thai coffee go well with pho, and this spot has both. A meal featuring yellow coconut curry, jalapeños, basil leaves and lime certainly isn’t bland. It may be spicy enough to break a sweat.
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Pho Bowl also serves shaken beef, a classic Vietnamese stir-fry with yellow onions and red bell peppers. A dish the Vietnamese inherited from the French, this was food for wealthy people. Shaken beef is not as well known as pho, but it deserves the same accolades. The cubed beef is cooked with butter, and many refer to it as butter beef.
The restaurant has a gorgeous shiny interior with a green color scheme, but it's also casual and welcoming. The large tables are great for eating family style, but also encourage strangers to sit together.
With quick, fresh food at a reasonable price, Pho Bowl fills all the needs of a Vietnamese restaurant —which is typically something people drive to Garland or Richardson for — but also offers a few surprises.
Pho Bowl, 2807 Commerce St.