Review: Pho Boston is the real deal

  • Special Combination Beef Noodle Soup at Pho Boston in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shrimp Imperial Roll at Pho Boston. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shrimp rolls, egg rolls and Tiger rolls at Pho Boston in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clockwise from front, Special Combination Beef Noodle Soup, Vietnamese Crepes, Roll Sampler, and Shrimp Imperial Roll at Pho Boston in Florence.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2019 12:01:22 AM
Modified: 10/19/2019 12:01:09 AM

NORTHAMPTON – Pho Boston, located at 311 Riverside Drive, is the real deal, at least from the perspective of someone who’s never had the pleasure of eating Vietnamese food in Vietnam.

I’m a pretty big fan of pho, the delicious, heartily-portioned Vietnamese noodle soup, and Pho Boston does not disappoint on that front. But I’ve also enjoyed everything else I’ve eaten there and that, combined with its working-person prices, ensures I’ll be coming back for more.

Pho Boston is literally around the corner from my apartment in a largely residential area, and when I sat down to the spread of food laid out for the Gazette, it was my second time eating there. 

The first involved an order of pho, the Rare Beef Noodle Soup specifically, and an assortment of rolls and dumplings that I enjoyed when out to dinner with members of my softball team. The establishment certainly left an impression: There’s already been a follow up get together there.

The man behind the food at Pho Boston is Maruone Thach, the owner and chef who currently commutes from Boston on a daily basis to make it. An immigrant from Vietnam, Thach has been working in restaurants in this country since the 1990s, and it shows in the rich flavors of his cooking.

When I sat down to eat on Monday, the pho I had was the Special Combination Beef Noodle Soup, which has both sliced beef and beef meatballs in it. Thach made sure that I added in Hoisin Sauce, chili oil, Sriracha, bean sprouts and fresh basil into the soup, and I would certainly suggest the same when eating any pho. That said, the base broth of the pho is delicious in and of itself, and Thach said he makes his beef broth by boiling beef bones for seven hours.

Of the fried rolls I ate, the Tiger Roll’s blend of cream cheese and seafood was definitely my favorite. The Shrimp Imperial Roll, essentially a fresh shrimp spring roll, was also delicious, and Thach suggested putting chili oil into the peanut dipping sauce that came on the side, which I did and was very happy with.

My favorite part of the meal, however, was definitely the Vietnamese Crepe. A pancake with a yellow color thanks to the turmeric in its batter, it was stuffed with bean sprouts, shrimp, pork, and onion and simply delicious. Once again, Thach showed me the optimal way to eat it, which is dipped in fish sauce with some of the vegetables served alongside it — cilantro, vinegary carrots, onions, lettuce and basil — in one delicious, messy bite.

The one point against Pho Boston for me is probably going to be a selling point for many: A lack of weird meats. I’m a big fan of getting my Pho with items like tendon and tripe in it, but Pho Boston offers no such fare, sticking to such proteins as beef, shrimp and chicken.

A selling point for the restaurant is its price. Most entrees on the menu are $8.95, and the portions are excellent. A bowl of Pho is a hearty meal, and with tax and tip you’re going to be spending less than 12 bucks for one. That firmly puts Pho Boston into the conversation of places working-class people can regularly eat.

Additionally, you don’t have to go to Pho Boston at lunchtime to get the best price. Lunch and dinner menus are the same.

Pho Boston may be off the beaten path, but it’s certainly worth traveling for. And for me, it’s just around the corner.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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