I adore Asian food. While the seasoning and sauce pack a punch, the meal fills you up without feeling like you’ll actually roll away. The base of vegetables and rice is just a bit lighter than potatoes or gluten. So, I was excited to try Pho Saigon, a relatively new Vietnamese restaurant near the Dover Air Force Base.
The restaurant is named for a delicious Vietnamese noodle dish. “Pho” is pronounced “fuh,” and of course we had to order a bowl. It takes hours to cook the broth, as the spice and charred bones slowly merge into a beautiful flavor. Here, the meat comes from Haass’ Family Butcher Shop, also in Dover.
“People love my pho,” manager Larry Luu told us. “We serve good meat here. We make sure the food here is fresh.” He has spent about 27 years in Delaware, and over 40 years in the United States, and the family recipes still shine through in the menu.
As an appetizer, we munched on pork spring rolls with a brothy dipping sauce. Then came a shrimp summer roll, wrapped with cold veggies in a translucent rice wrapper. Many of the dipping sauces are made in house, from chili oil to peanut sauce.
At last, the massive bowl of soup arrived. Pho Dac Biet featured beef: flank, fat brisket, tendon and tripe. The flavor is already professionally done, but my favorite part is the second bowl that accompanies a good dish of pho: a fresh pile of lime slices, jalapenos, crispy bean sprouts and basil leaves. Meanwhile, my dining buddy reached for the sauces: soy, sriracha, fish sauce and more.
Forget the forks. There’s a pile of chopsticks and tiny soup ladles already on the table. I felt adventurous enough to try the tripe, but decided it wasn’t for me. That’s all right—there’s always tomorrow, and I was already slurping some rice noodles.
So, what’s good at Pho Saigon? According to our waitress, Dom—everything. People have favorite dishes all over the menu. Classic stir fry noodles and pad thai. The bánh mi sandwiches, adding jalapeno and cilantro to meats on a baguette (a hangover of the French colonialism days). Spicy beef noodle soup that is perfect for soothing a stuffy nose. Beef short rib over broken rice, which is Dom’s favorite (and basically the same as regular rice).
It had been a warm April day, so I ordered the mango fruit shake (like a frozen slushie or smoothie) with tapioca pearls (like the boba in bubble tea). It was sweet and frosty with a delightful candy-ish chew, and I still had enough left over to enjoy on the ride home.
The vibe and prices at Pho Saigon are casual, but details put it over the top, from orchids in the window to dark wooden furniture and interesting light fixtures.
Find Pho Saigon at 1651 E. Lebanon Road, Dover, Del., and at phosaigondover.com.
Bay to the Beach: Byways is a regular column in which we explore interesting places and projects on the Delmarva Peninsula. Videos and more photos at baytobaynews.com/bay-to-the-beach-byways