I haven't written a Pho From Home in some time, as I've been reserving it for when the cold temperatures return. Last week, however, I found myself in the odd position of craving pho in the middle of the Texas summer.
After botching a job interview in Las Colinas, I sought the best and worst type of comfort -- food. This streak of depression-fueled gorging is quite new to me (I usually stop eating altogether) and the result has been a major packing of the pounds. Having run out of money to buy larger clothes and not wanting to completely wreck my three-mile jog from earlier in the day, I decided against my inner urge to assault the nearby Ali Baba buffet.
Pho seemed like the perfect compromise, a sensible, yet soothing solution to my blues.
My last pho experience in Las Colinas was disappointing, but I recalled another pho eatery down the street on MacArthur. Pho Que Huong (loose translation, "pho from the homeland,"), isn't quite as catchy a name as that of its competition, I Luv Pho, but it doesn't lack any patrons because of it. The afternoon I visited, there were plenty other occupied tables during restaurant reset hours of 3 p.m.
The restaurant is situated in an ideal location, hence the number of customers dining in the middle of the afternoon. Sharing a shopping center in the middle of Las Colinas with the likes of Target, Ross and TJ Maxx ensures a steady business of both families and nearby workers.
Still dolled up from my interview, I walked in and requested a table. After confirming with the loudly speaking waitress repeatedly, that yes, indeed, it was just me and I only needed a table for one, I found a seat by the windows. The restaurant is straightforward without anything fancy or spectacular. However, the restaurant is clean, has a couple of small television sets and is bathed in natural light.
Once I got the menu, I could feel the gluttony and curiosity slowly creeping up on me. I was going to over-order. Damned fatty. I blame it on the menu with pictures. Intrigued by a $3.95 appetizer sampler platter, I asked the waitress of what the plate consisted. She informed me that the platter served up a spring roll, egg roll and nem nuong, or Vietnamese pork meat ball. I added that Vietnamese holy trinity to my order of pho tai bo vien, pho with round eye and beef meat balls. Before the waitress could walk away, I tapped her and added on a grilled pork submarine sandwich, or banh mi thit nuong, to the order. I told myself it was for research purposes.
When the appetizer sampler arrived, the portion size for one person was fine, but immediately I was disappointed with the spring roll. Through the translucent rice paper, I could see that the shrimp were small and that there was a lack of greens. Iceberg lettuce is a pet peeve of mine. I could get into how stingy restaurants use it, and I could get into its lack of nutritional substance. A true Vietnamese spring roll is supposed to be a layer of flavors; pork, shrimp, vermicelli, herbs and green leaf vegetables. Too many Vietnamese restaurants nowadays pass off a bland iceberg and vermicelli impostor as a spring roll, hoping that the peanut sauce will disguise the ruse. As for the rest of the sampler, the nem nuong was dry, and the egg roll fared the best. The dry meatballs were confusing because nem nuong customarily is made with fatty pieces of pork.
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Not having that high of expectations for pho in Las Colinas, I was neither terribly disappointed nor ecstatic over Pho Que Huong's pho. For a restaurant with "homeland" in its name, the pho at Que Huong more resembled that of a popular chain restaurant in Vietnam. It's not great, but it's passable. All the signs of truly great pho, such as aroma and depth of flavor, were missing.
I didn't have any room left by the time my banh mi thit arrived, but I managed to take a few bites, for the sake of research. The well-seasoned grilled pork was juicier than the nem nuong. My issue with the sandwich, however, was its unrecognizable sweet glaze. The oyster sauce/hoisin sauce hybrid is overwhelming and foreign to any other banh mi thit I've ever had. As a traditionalist, I may have been put off, but the boyfriend sure did enjoy the leftovers.
Perhaps Pho Que Huong may not fulfill its lofty name, but it's evident that the residents of Las Colinas appreciate their neighborhood pho restaurant all the same.
Pho Que Huong 7447 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving 972-869-1935