Noodle House Pho
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
When I received the e-mail from local (and world-renown) artist, Blu Rivard, recommending that I try "this little restaurant in the ITC Building," I didn't know that I'd be reviewing it so soon. It was curiosity, actually, since I'd not eaten there before and I go to the POST OFFICE every day, and have been seeing my foot doctor just down the sidewalk, once every week to inspect my cast. At first, I went in the ITC Bldg. to find Pho's and was told by several people that it was "outside." They then told me they worked for the Bank of Guam and that they eat at Pho's all the time, and that I should try the Pork Chop, the Beef Salad, and their Fried Noodles.
I was in a rush to get to my Guam Girl Scout's Board Meeting, and had about 45 minutes to have an early dinner. Upon entering this nicely decorated, well lit restaurant, I could tell that this was a place of "food worship" as evidenced by the food aromas that lingered. The open kitchen is just behind a counter that serves as a bar, so you can actually watch the meats on the broiler, the stir fry dishes, and the deep fryers. For variety, I ordered the signature Vietnamese Beef Soup ($6.00), Shrimp Lemongrass ($7.00), and the Beef Salad (6.50).
To drink, I ordered the Iced Coffee (Vietnamese Style-$2.00). Sang Kim, brother to sisters Phuong and Huong, took my order. A plate was delivered with bean sprouts, mint leaves, a local lemon wedge, and romaine lettuce leaves, which was to be added to the soup. He then mixed for me a dipping combination that consisted of Hoisin Sauce and a Hot Chili Sauce, which was for dipping my beef into. The Beef Soup came in a large, steaming bowl, and had beef meatballs, sliced beef, oxtails, and beef tripe! The rich broth also contained onions and rice noodles. This was a tasty, hearty dish, especially when all the ingredients are added. I hadn't eaten beef tripe before, and found it's spongy texture interesting. The pieces of oxtail were perked up by the Hoisin/chili sauce, justifying the ritual of its mixing.
Another ritual to be observed and respected was the creation of the Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Each serving is individually fresh brewed through a special Vietnamese filter. I noted the ground coffee can's distinct label - Cafe du Monde, a rich, strong dark coffee made famous by its New Orleans' coffee house namesake. Cut by adding a generous serving of condensed milk, this drink is a delicious and refreshing, and really made more memorable by this particular brand of coffee. (I'm sure any good Dark French Roast would do).
The Beef Salad was delivered next. What a pretty picture this was! Piled on a bed of cut Romaine Lettuce was a steaming blend of cooked steak strips that had been stir-fried with onions in an oyster sauce and then covered by a light, tangy vinegar sauce, imparting a sweetness. The tender beef and onion mixture tasted marvelous, and the cucumbers and carrots cooled my palate after each flavorful bite.
The final entree I enjoyed was the Shrimp Lemongrass. Pho's did a good job of blending their ingredients and finely chopping the lemongrass so that it's unique flavor permeated the whole mix of onions, scallions, and sautéed shrimp. This dish comes with two large scoops of steamed rice and a salad portion, certainly enough to satisfy one person.
I knew some of other customers and asked about their preferences. One lady loves the Wonton Soup ($6.00), and has been "stuck" on only eating it every time she visits Pho's! Another customer ordered the Deep Fried Shrimp ($7.00). It was a huge portion, and the shrimp had been dipped in a special batter (resembling Japanese Panko), but with a slight difference. He swore by this dish and others he's eaten, and he thinks Pho's offers the best value and quality of Vietnamese food on island. I do agree that the food was good and priced affordably. But Guam has some other excellent Vietnamese restaurants, too, so I won't judge it the "best" just yet. I'll have to try their lumpia and a few other entrees.
Pho Noodle House was a great discovery. It's pleasant, quaint atmosphere allows a shared intimacy with other diners. The walls are covered with interesting Vietnamese art pieces and pictures, adding to the mystique and charm of this little hideaway. The Kim family is close-knit, and very friendly. They are justifiably proud of their cooking and of the success they've carved out over the past three years. I'm really pleased to have met them and enjoyed their special preparations and the attentive service provided. I highly recommend Pho Noodle House to you for a delightful, home-style, Vietnamese taste experience cooked from the heart.