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January 13, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Pho great food, try Pho Appetit

Restaurant Review: Pho great food, try Pho Appetit

By Shavon Walker

Pho Appetit is located in a quiet business park on Stevenson Boulevard, next to Cyclo Cafe. John Nguyen picked this location well; close to the freeway with plenty of hungry commuters on their way home. According to Judy Nguyen, sister-in-law of the owner and one of the talented managers of the restaurant, John, with his background as a chef, had always dreamed of having a restaurant. "He liked the plaza because it's a pretty area," she added.

The interior is very sleek and modern with black furniture and recessed lighting. Bathrooms are clean and stylishly decorated. Prices are sensible, ranging from $5.95 for a kids' meal to $19.95 for a rib eye steak. And, of course, even the name is catchy. But what really makes Pho Appetit special is the food.

My hungry group of three chose a number of different foods for dinner. We started with the phoi hop sampler: spring rolls, hot wings and egg rolls with a pork filling. The spring rolls held fresh, crispy vegetables and the accompanying sauces made them even more delicious. We chose mild hot wings which were spicy enough to suit our tastes but not so hot that the flavor vanished. My biggest pet peeve with hot wings at many Vietnamese spots is that they often tend to be overcooked. That wasn't the case here. The egg rolls were crunchy and well cooked, not greasy. This is an amazing feat considering the pork filling.

My husband ordered a bowl of pho with filet mignon. The bowl of broth came hot and steaming from the kitchen with a side of jalapeno peppers, lime, green onion and bean sprouts. Most pho places also serve basil with their pho; Pho Appetit delivers the basil in a glass of water so it looks more like a decoration than a garnish. Extra broth was kept warm in a fondue container on the table.

Broth for this pho wasn't overly salty the way it can be at other restaurants. The reason is simple; Pho Appetit makes its broth from scratch. "Our broth is made thick and muddy looking - that's how you know the bones have been cooked for hours," Judy said. "We cook it the night before and let it sit, so everything goes in the broth except MSG; we don't put that in there. To make it a little sweet, we put white radish instead of sugar." If you're concerned about your health, the broth alone is an excellent reason to eat here. The meat was served on a separate plate; containers of hoisin and rooster sauce were readily available.

Our dining companion chose vermicelli combo with pork. Her dish came with fresh vegetables, shrimp eggrolls, grilled prawns, and grilled pork. All were attractively arranged on a lovely bed of vermicelli and garnished with mint, bean sprouts, cucumber, green onions and lettuce as well as grilled onions and peanuts. A light sauce topped the entire meal. Noodles were warm and the vegetables were crunchy and fresh.

I was looking for a vegetarian dish with as little starch as possible and I found it in the lemongrass mock chicken, which was served over a bed of lettuce accompanied by grilled onions, green onions and red peppers. The waiter asked how spicy I preferred the dish and was glad I chose the medium version. The spice added a kick to the dish without overwhelming it. The lemongrass taste was exactly what I'd been looking for and the tofu had an excellent texture.

Although we did not sample any desserts, we saw one that is a must have - the kids' bear. This charming item is a scoop of chocolate gelato decorated with a bear face. Amusingly enough, the dessert appeals to more than just children. "On Valentine's Day last year, we had a full house," Judy remembers. "All of the guys ordered the kids' bear for their dates. I had six tables of dates and six kids' bears. All the girls were like, "Oh my God!" I thought that was so adorable."

Pho Appetit is definitely the place to go for a stylish dinner out that will keep you - and your wallet - healthy. This restaurant succeeds in their effort to serve delicious food with quality service. "Our customer service is top notch," says Judy. From now on, I will join Pho Appetit's growing group of loyal customers who agree.

Reviewed 1/3/2010

Pho Appetit
6096 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
(510) 659-8049

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