Having never eaten Phở (also known as pho), I was a little reluctant to try ethnic food after I last tried Korean and desensitized most of my tastebuds for almost a week. My misconception has always been that ethnic foods are all comprised of bold flavors and piquant spice. Thankfully, Pho Tre Bien has refuted this notion. It’s a rare moment when I enjoy being wrong.
The delightful flavors and aromatic qualities of each sauce, protein and vegetable are well-balanced on the palate. It was a nice surprise to find sophisticated and transparent culinary techniques at such a quaint location.
We started with a simple appetizer of shrimp spring rolls. They were pleasant and had a thin wrapper of rice paper, served with a light chocolate sauce with peanuts, along with an assortment of dipping sauces. I at least attempted the Sriracha and Hoisin sauce, but I am a little wimpy about the heat. I typically only request water when I’m trying something new, so that my palate is not influenced. The Thai Tea is an authentic beverage, with a light sweetness from the tapioca pearls, served in a bright orange color (which is a result of the type of tea used).
For the main dish, I ordered the Pho with chicken breast, which came with a plate of optional toppings, as well as the Pan Fried Noodles (Vermicelli) with Beef. The bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, onions, a bit of lime, and cilantro changed the chicken Pho into a hearty soup. Not a single ingredient overpowered the other, but rather worked together to establish a true level of umami. The vermicelli was served in a modern presentation, much like a little nest, with a thin layer of spice and broth along the bottom of the bowl, lightly saturating the cabbage, thin noodles, sliced beef, chopped vegetables (carrots, broccoli and onions). It was easy to manage with chopsticks, but thankfully Pho Tre Bien is up with the times and also offers silverware. (See the rest of the menu here)
The service was superb as well. Acting the role of hostess/ front of the house/ server, Gracie was friendly, knowledgeable and hip. She was quick to offer suggestions and made sure we felt welcomed. I definitely will be returning. While this particular location is a bit smaller than neighboring ethnic food restaurants, the ambiance was charming and homey.
When you’re in the area, consider Pho Tre Bien, rather than the usual fast and easy fallback choices in the Kernplace area, like Whataburger, McDonald’s or Taco Bell. Your palate deserves a better experience.