By Jon Bauer Herald Writer
It’s May and we’re still swinging between rain and temperatures in the mid-50s and warm sunny days reaching near the 80s, making it a little difficult to pick a lunch place.
Pho Ha in downtown Everett should have you covered in either event.
Looking for a great lunch to take outside in the sun? Order a spring roll from the appetizers list and a bahn mi sandwich.
Wrapped in moistened rice paper, Pho Ha’s spring rolls ($2 each) bundle lettuce, carrot, cucumber, basil, a thin slice of pork sausage, shrimp and a rolled-up fried wonton wrapper for a little added crunch. Dipped in peanut sauce, the spring roll becomes a green salad you eat with your hands.
Just as portable are the bahn mi, one of the happier consequences of France’s colonization of Vietnam. Bahn mi sandwiches put Vietnamese cuisine on a crusty French-style baguette. Pho Ha’s pork bahn mi ($4.15) provides a generous serving of smoky grilled pork with lightly pickled strips of carrot, cucumber and daikon, along with cilantro and slices of jalapeno pepper for some heat. Along with the pork, you can order chicken or tofu bahn mi ($4.15) or beef ($4.49).
A vegetarian co-worker likes the tofu bahn mi, What makes or breaks a tofu sandwich is, obviously, the tofu. Pho Ha’s is crispy on the outside and not too soft on the inside, with a burst of flavor in each bite, she reports. Less a fan of jalapeno, she recommends skipping the pepper slices.
Pho, beef broth with rice noodles, provides a great warm-up on a cooler day.
Pho options ($7.49 or $8.49), with bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno slices and lime served on the side, offer choices of steak and additions of meal balls, brisket, tendon and tripe. Extra meat balls are $2.25 and extra noodles are $1.25.
Don’t shun the tendon expecting it to be like the gristle you gnaw on a beef rib. Cooked well, tendon, with bits of beef and fat, turns into a gelatinous, beefy tidbit in a bowl of pho. A bowl of steak and tendon pho had a rich well-flavored broth, rice noodles and thin slices of steak and tendon.
If chicken, rather than beef soup, is your preference, Pho Ha offers chicken broth ($7.99 to $8.99) with either egg noodles or rice noodles with additions of shrimp, squid and fish balls, wonton, spare rib or pork dumpling.
Other appetizers include egg rolls ($1.50), pot stickers ($3), crab wontons ($3), fried fish balls (3), chicken or port skewers ($4.50) and sesame balls ($1).
Vegetarian dishes ($7.99) include stir-fried tofu and broccoli, curry tofu, stir-fried eggplant and tofu.
Along with the various pho offerings, Pho Ha also offers several Asian standards ($8.25 to $9.49), including Mongolian chicken, General Tso’s chicken, chicken pad Thai, beef broccoli, garlic beef, Kung Pao shrimp, honey prawns and noodle and rice dishes.
Throughout, Pho Ha keeps its ingredients fresh and flavorful and its dishes well presented.
Most of the items at Pho Ha allow you to adjust the heat to your liking, either by adding jalapeno slices to your pho or a squirt of Huy Fong sriracha “rooster” chili sauce available at your table.
Pho Ha doesn’t serve beer, wine or spirits, but there are plenty of other refreshment options, including iced coffee with or without condensed milk ($2.95); Thai tea ($2.95); exotic fruit smoothies with a choice of avocado, jack fruit, soursop or (for the brave) durian; and bubble tea ($3.99) with choices including almond, blueberry, cherry, green tea, coconut, lychee, mango, watermelon, red bean, taro and vanilla and topped with tapioca, coconut jelly or lychee jelly.
My colleague liked the iced coffee, describing it as sweet, fresh and deliciously strong. If you’ve called an order in ahead, they wait to brew and prepare it until you arrive to ensure it retains its flavor, she said. It also packs a subtle caffeine kick, keeping you effectively humming along without subjecting you to the caffeine crash of an energy drink. It’s a far superior taste compared with an iced Starbucks, she said, and slightly less expensive than other Vietnamese restaurants she’s been to.
A note about the durian smoothie: A Pho Ha server could only remember one customer ordering a smoothie with durian, a Southeast Asian fruit that, depending on the individual, is either celebrated for its sweetness or reviled for its aroma of rotting onions. An avocado smoothie, on the other hand, is much more approachable, creamy, not at all sweet and a cooling end to a meal, particularly if one kinda overdoes it with the bottle of srirachi sauce.
Ideal for a downtown lunch or a quick dinner before a show or game, Pho Ha’s dining room is narrow but offers a sidewalk view out to Colby Avenue and original art on its deep red walls. Service is quick and friendly.
Pho Ha also has a restaurant in Shoreline at 15215 Aurora Ave. N.; 206-368.3887.
2930 Colby Ave., Everett; 425-252-4002
Specialty: Vietnamese pho, bahn mi and Asian favorites
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.
Vegetarian options: Several