Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bowl of Pho Vietnamese Resaurant

There has been a lot of talk recently about Bowl of Pho Vietnamese Restaurant on Old Baymeadows Rd. on Jacksonville’s southside, so when a friend suggested we give it a try, I had to see what all the hype was about. Now I still have not fully gotten over the preconceived notion that good restaurants and strip malls go together, so there was part of me that lowered my expectations prior to walking in – but I certainly did not need to.

We were greeted warmly shortly after arriving and shown to a comfortable booth. Our server came next to take our drink orders and asked if we had any questions about the menu since I mentioned neither of us had been there before. She happily explained the concept and a couple of the more popular dishes, then left us to decide.

I opted for the appetizer of Grilled Pork Spring Rolls and the Noodle Soup with Crab, Shrimp, and Pork. My friend chose the Vietnamese Egg Rolls, the Bowl of Pho Special Fried Rice, and the Bowl of Pho Special Soup. Our appetizers came out very quickly, and we were both very happy with our choices. The Grilled Pork Spring Rolls rolled in rice paper were very light, and paired perfectly with the nuoc mam sauce (a sweet fish sauce with lime and lemon juices) to give it an exceptional flavor. If I had to criticize the roll at all, my only suggestion would be to add just a little more of the grilled pork – it was excellent and would have liked that flavor to come out slightly more than it did, but overall I was very happy with the spring roll. The Vietnamese Egg Rolls were so good that my friend refused to share, but assured me the blend of ground pork, chicken, shrimp, and crabmeat with lettuce, cucumber, cilantro, and served with the same nuoc mam sauce as with the Spring Rolls were exceptional. Now I need to go back to try those!

Our entrées were brought out quicker than I might have liked as I was still working on my appetizer, but the product was certainly worth the minor inconvenience of having to finish my Spring Roll quickly. We learned very quickly that you had better be hungry when eating at Bowl of Pho, because leaving with any appetite left is just not an option. The portion size for my noodle soup could have easily fed two, but I wasn’t complaining because the flavors that paired so well with the pork, shrimp, and crab were out of this world. After trying a few bites, I went for the platter of optional ingredients to add and found myself loving the soup even more as I squeezed a lime over the soup and added jalapenos, fresh basil and cilantro. My only frustration with my bowl was that the large rice noodles were difficult to pick up with the spoon that was provided, so I had to use my fork to get many of these. Overall, that was minor compared to the wonderful flavors!

I also tried a little of my friend’s Bowl of Pho Special soup, and it was every bit as good as mine! It featured several cuts of beef over small rice noodles with fresh basil, cilantro, green onions and bean sprouts, and became even tastier with the addition of fresh squeezed lime juice. The Bowl of Pho Special Fried Rice was even better, neither of us would hesitate to order this again – as long as we are really hungry! Generous amounts of chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp made this rice seem more like a meal rather than a side order, but there was more than enough left over to take home and enjoy the next day.

I am thrilled to see new and diverse restaurants coming to Jacksonville, and Bowl of Pho is a perfect example of a newer restaurant making exceptional food at a very reasonable price. If you’re looking for something different that will surely fill you up without breaking the bank, but will also offer wonderful flavors and combinations you may not have tried before, then I highly recommend Bowl of Pho. I am already looking forward to going back and trying more of what they have to offer!

Bowl of Pho on Urbanspoon

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