Location: SW Alder and 9th (between 9th and 10th)
Description: Maybe it’s the weather, but I’ve been on a beef pho soup kick lately by “researching” different dishes throughout the Portland metro area, including the wonderful Lavang Restaurant in Lake Oswego [near my former work and in a non-descript shopping center] and most recently Pho Dalat, where I had a decent bowl of pho served with traditional herbs, greens and other accompaniments for a reasonable price. If push comes to shove, I can survive on noodles and broth alone.
A couple weeks back I found myself at food cart ground zero downtown at SW 9th and Alder [a not so subtle reference to the block of some of Portland's best food carts] and spied a recent newcomer: Mai Pho Vietnamese.
By nature, or habit, I quickly ordered the beef pho without really scoping out the other menu offerings. Admittedly I realize I have been missing out on some great food from the various Vietnamese restaurants around town by ordering only the pho, though I did notice other tempting dishes from the simple menu while waiting for my pho at the tiny, colorfully decorated cart.
The pho, available in beef, chicken or tofu, comes served in a 32 oz. paper bowl and lid – with most ingredients already mixed in the dish for you.
My dining partner ordered the Lemongrass Noodle Salad with chicken. It smelled incredibly edible and I immediately started to feel the pangs of food envy.
The service was fast and the owner was very friendly. In no time we had our food and off we went to empty Dawn of the Deadesque Galleria to enjoy lunch.
A good pho is only as good as the beef stock used to make it. Sure, freshness counts with the ingredients, usually basil, mint, bean sprouts and chile. But if the broth doesn’t cut it, the dish is doomed. My point? As we sat down I clumsily grabbed the top of the container and proceeded to spill about 80% of the broth onto the table and floor. [Yeah, I'm that guy.] My dining companion was very gracious in not rolling with laughter; instead, gathering up some paper towels and helping me mop up the precious broth. So how was the beef pho without most of the essential broth? Good. Very good and very flavorful. Still moist and even a bit more complex with some of the flavors that are usually reserved as second players getting a shot to shine what they offer in the absence of the broth.
Another visit was warranted, so a few days later, we hit up the cart again, but this time I opted for what my partner had on the previous trip: Lemongrass Noodle Salad with Chicken. Like the pho, options include beef, chicken, or tofu.
And like the pho, the ingredients were fresh and delicious. Mixed with fresh greens, vermicelli noodles, chicken lightly coated in a batter and a light side sauce that was part sweet and part savory, the dish was well worth the $6. And a bonus: I didn’t drop it this time.
· If you’re really hungry you can add an appetizer with your entrée. Prices range from $3.00 to $5.00 and some servings look like they could make a whole meal.
· Unfortunately only one dish, spring rolls, was vegetarian.
· The meal would have been perfect with a nice, cold pale ale.
Crab puffs (6) $4
Vegetarian Spring Rolls (3) $3.00
Pork Egg Rolls (3) $3.50
Shrimp & Pork Salad Roll $3.50
Tofu Salad Roll (2) $3.00
Chicken Potsticker (10) $5.00
Pho Noodle Soup (32 Oz) Beef, chicken tofu $5.50
Chicken and Vegetable Dumpling Soup $6.00
Lemongrass Noodle Salad (beef, chicken, tofu) $6.00
Vietnamese Noodle Salad w/ egg rolls $6.00
Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry w/ Curry Noodles $5.50
Hours: Lunch Hours Mon-Fri