We've only recently discovered Vietnamese food. There's a neighborhood joint we have tried which is okay, if not a little "challenging"... and others we've been to with friends in Brooklyn, that we thought were fair, at best.
Imagine our surprise then, when in early January we went with friends to eat at our favorite Vegan haunt (Good Karma Cafe, also located in Red Bank) and it was CLOSED! How dare they!
Well, being that it was a cold night, we went for a brisk walk down Broad Street to see what may be open. We window shopped at Red, the Blue Water Grill next door, The Bistro across the street (which my wife reminded me she does not like) and several others before coming to the conclusion, if we couldn't chow down on a healthy portion of WHEATGRASS and PRESSED SOY PROTEIN over STEAMED RICE we wanted something a little more exotic, from the Far East. Our friends had tried TEMPLE CHINESE cuisine up the block several times and rated it a solid, "Feh." So I suggested "Phole" across the street.
I have to say, we were NOT disappointed in the least bit!
Phole was PACKED. I mean packed. And on a cold night and relatively early still (I think we wound up there close to 7PM).
There is scant room to wait, but fortunately, we did not have to wait very long at all. And knowing what I now know, I'd gladly wait in future for this delicious and fabulously fresh food.
Naturally, Phole, like the name implies, serves a lot of "Pho" - the traditional Vietnamese Meal in a Bowl - and these are the REAL DEAL (This ain't no faux Pho at Phole, people!)
Pho is a hot meal unto itself, with fresh veggies and noodles and your choice of meat or fish or even "well-done brisket, tendon and tripe". Yikes!.
It's delicious and very filling - and saw lots of patrons enjoying these gigantic portions... but we passed.
Instead, we sampled various appetizers - Tasty shrimp dumplings, Fresh Summer Rolls, the Saigon Crepe - which are all yummy and good for sharing, but in fairness, I should say, my wife did not agree with me on the crepe, which she found more crappy they crepey. We really enjoyed their Summer Rolls - rice paper stuffed with shrimp, pork and noodles. You dip this in the Vietnamese version of peanut sauce (a little different than the more familiar Thai variety... but good).
The Steak Salad was the BEST I've ever tasted. No kidding. I rarely eat red meat and when I do it has to be cooked to perfection and be of high quality. This fit the bill. It was perfect.
To placate the Vegan lurking inside me, we had their Vegetable Fried Rice made with brown rice. Very nice and again, different from Chinese or Thai versions.
This would have been enough for the four of us but we were afraid it wouldn't be enough. Hence, we ordered not one but TWO dinner entrees. The Garlic Shrimp and the Lemongrass Curry Chicken. Although I was beginning to burst at the seams, I managed a plateful of both dishes and again, wasn't disappointed.
I like the service, too. They paced the dishes well so the table wasn't swimming in appetizer plates when the entrees arrived.
The tea was hot and fragrant.
The atmosphere is clean and light.
The prices not to exorbitant...
I will certainly be going back to Phole.
See you there?
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