Sherman's Food Adventures: Pho 68

Pho 68

So here we go with another Vietnamese restaurant with a number in it.  This time around, we have the brand-new Pho 68 located right below Superstore on #3 Road in Richmond.  I think the biggest question about the place is what sets it apart from the many run-of-the-mill spots in town?  For one thing, the menu seems to combine both Northern and Southern Vietnamese cuisines into one.   Secondly, the place is modern and purpose-built, rather than taking over an existing space and doing no renovations to it.

To start, we had the Beef Shank Salad consisting of sliced braised beef shank, pickled veggies, mint, nuts and fried shallots in a tamarind dressing.  This was a light and almost refreshing beef salad (not that I would often say that) where the meat was tender and the dressing was tangy and sweet.  Another starter was the Sticky Wings in a caramelized fish sauce that also came with rice and pickled veggies.  This could definitely be eaten as a meal!  The wings themselves were large and juicy.  I found the skin to be crispy and properly-rendered.  The ample amount of sauce ensured that we got every little bit of the stick sweetness combined with salty-briniess.

Typically a specialty of Hai Phong in the North, they serve pâté sticks here.  On the menu, it is referred to as Breadsticks filled with pâté, meat floss and hot sauce.  These were very good with crispy, almost crunchy bread that fairly light.  The ample amount of homemade 
pâté was flavouful and aromatic.  Now onto the more familiar Southern Bánh Mì, we had the cold cut,  lemongrass chicken and grilled minced pork.  These were also good with airy bread with a crunchy exterior.  All the usual ingredients were there  including mayo, cucumber, pickled carrot, cilantro, hot pepper, black pepper and soy sauce.  For me, I've always enjoyed the cold cut myself and this was loaded with all the usual meats.

Onto some soup noodles, we had the Beef Rib Phở.   With 3 big meaty beef bones, this was one hearty bowl of noodles.  I found the broth for the phở to be clean and fairly balanced.  It did have some meatiness to go with the sweetness from the daikon, charred onion and rock sugar.  The noodles were nicely al dente (even though it sat in the broth for awhile) and the rib meat was fall-off-the-bone tender.  I found the rare beef to be sliced thin and ultimately tender as well.

For the 
Bún Bò Huế, this was a hearty version with plenty of slippery lai fun noodles, beef brisket, chả lụa and chicken meatballs.  The broth was pretty fragrant with a definite lemongrass essence.  There was some spice due to the chili oil and a minor brininess.  In general, this was a solid version of BBH despite missing 2 key components of pig's blood and pork knuckle.  However, I do understand why they were missing as those components do not appeal to everyone.

Our last soup noodle was the Bún Riêu or Vietnamese crab noodle soup.  Now, there are many variations in town and for the going price (around $15-$20), you aren't going to get a lot of crab.  But in reality, it is little to with the amount of crab meat, rather it is the flavours and the soup base.  This one was aromatic, sweet, a bit tangy and of course briny.  I've always thought that the much-talked about version from Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen is far too "porky".  This one here was much more focused and clean.  The crab, pork & egg mixture was light and fluffy.   Completing the bowl was some shrimp, tofu and crab cakes.

From soup noodles, we moved onto rice dishes in the Grilled Prawns & Pork Slices as well as the Beef Luc Lac.  As you can clearly see, both rice dishes were well-portioned.  Beyond that, they were also very good.  The ample pork slices were charred and fully caramelized whereas the prawns were just cooked through with a meaty snap.  As for the luc lac, there was a bit too much veg for my liking, but ultimately, they were able to have enough wok heat to sear the meat with a sweet and salty caramelization.  The same could be said about the veggies too as they were still crunchy but cooked through.  This was super impactful and went well with the rice.

To get a sense of the entire menu, we also had the Lemongrass Chicken & Spring Roll Vermicelli.  Just like every other dish, this bowl was loaded and the vermicelli couldn't even be seen as a result.  The huge piece of chicken was well-charred while the meat was still juicy and properly brined.  The ample amount of spring rolls was crunchy with a medium-dense pork-filling.  Overall, the food at Pho 68 is solid across-the-board.  Considering the reasonable prices and large portions, it is no wonder why there are many locations and they are generally all busy.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Large portions
- Consistent across-the-board
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- The beef luc lac could do with a few less veggies


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