LYNNWOOD — I almost wished I had a cold when trying pho at Pho Country House, because I knew it would make me enjoy it even more.
The Vietnamese rice noodle soup reminds me of chicken noodle soup, which studies show helps ease cold symptoms. Hence my odd wish. I probably don’t need to tell you that I ordered my pho with chicken.
The family-owned Pho Country House opened about a month ago in the H Mart food court. It’s operated by a mother-son team. Mom An Nguyen is the owner; son Tom Bui is the manager.
“H Mart is our priority for now,” Bui said, adding that it’s only a 10-minute drive to work for his mom. “We’re going to be here for quite a while.”
On the menu are 15 types of pho: ribs, oxtail, trotters (pigs feet), rare steak, brisket, fatty flank (beef), tendon, meatball, tripe, chicken, shrimp, seafood (medley), vegetable, tofu and boiled egg. Most bowls cost $9.96. You can also create your own pho by choosing your own ingredients. If you mix and match, it’s an extra $1 to $2.
Herald colleague Mark Carlson joined me for lunch there last week. We were both in the mood for Vietnamese comfort food. I ordered my chicken pho for $9.96. Mark settled on the oxtail pho for $12.67. In addition to the rice noodles, choice of meat and broth, each bowl of pho was served with green onion and cilantro.
A garnish plate with bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime and jalapeno let us doctor up the soup just the way we like it. I grabbed the jalapeno slice right away. I love jalapenos.
“I ordered oxtail, the most expensive option, because it’s so tender and tasty, and you rarely see it at mainstream supermarkets,” he said. “The meat melted in your mouth. The bones were clumsy to deal with — at least for somebody like me who can’t manage chopsticks; I wanted to eat every morsel of meat, and it wasn’t elegant.”
My chicken pho was just what I had been craving: a hot bowl of soup with tender and juicy chicken, noodles, green onion, cilantro, Thai basil, jalapeno and bean sprouts. Delicious.
Mark and I oohed and aahed over the broth. It’s the most important part of pho and can make or break the dish. Pho Country’s was vividly flavorful, fragrant and not very fatty. There were no globules of oil floating on the surface. We were glad to see that.
You can also order spring rolls for $4.53, Vietnamese sandwiches with chicken, pork, beef or eggs for $9.96 or Vietnamese iced coffee for $3.62.
Mark and I each tried a Vietnamese iced coffee. It reminded me of Thai iced tea — which I order any chance I can get — because it also is made with condensed milk. Mark said the coffee was a good afternoon pick-me-up and sweet enough to be a dessert.
Bui said we missed out on not trying Pho Country’s spring rolls. They’re his favorite thing on the menu.
“Our spring rolls are amazing,” he said. “We hand-make the sauces. You should try it with the peanut sauce.”
We had just one complaint. At Pho Country’s bussing station, there was a 12-quart stockpot into which you dump whatever’s left in your bowl. Not appetizing, to say the least! Restaurants should keep this kind of thing behind the scenes.
Bui said his family will be opening a second location, this one a full-scale restaurant, off Highway 99, also in Lynnwood. The red-and-orange building still needs to be remodeled, but their Pho Country House sign is already up at 17711 Highway 99. Mark and I accidentally drove to this location, before we realized we needed to go to H Mart.
Mother and son previously operated a Pho Country House in Seattle. With their move to Lynnwood, a family member has taken over the Seattle location. With the transfer of ownership, the restaurant was renamed V House Noodle.
An Nguyen, who lives in Everett, has been working as a chef in Asian restaurants since she immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1999.
“She wanted to settle down and have her own place,” Bui said. “We decided to open one up and see how we do.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarabruestle.
If you go
Pho Country House, inside the H Mart building, is at 3301 184th St. SW, Lynnwood. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 206-349-8511 for more information.