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There’s a lo to atI Pho

by Brian Clarey

BY BRIAN CLAREY editor@yesweekly.com

Ilove pho. And I love the new pho place near my office, called I Pho, and not just because it gives me a chance to use the heart symbol in my copy.

Pho (pronounced fuh) is a Vietnamese soup based on broth, noodles, fresh vegetables and, usually, some kind of protein, be it beef, chicken, seafood, rubbery Vietnamese meatballs, tofu or even tendon and tripe.

I Pho has a lot more to offer than just pho — its soft-drink menu alone is worth writing about, with salty or sweet lemonade, bubble teas, soybean drink and café sua da, the sweetest and richest iced coffee you’ve ever had. Plus there is a list of beef, rice, fish and chicken dishes, along with a slate of appetizers and vermicelli salads that is enviable.

But in keeping with my policy of ordering the item that is in the name of the restaurant when applicable, I put in for a small-sized bowl of pho with brisket and flank steak, an order of summer spring rolls and, for good measure, a glass of that wonderful iced coffee.

The summer rolls consist of fried tofu, fresh vegetables and noodles in a translucent rice wrap — fairly bland, but when dipped in peanut sauce are transformed into something wonderful.

My “small” pho comes out in a bowl the size of a helmet. I add fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil, fresh jalapeño slices and a squeeze of lime and let it steep.

I Pho exists on a High Point Road corridor that in recent years has become a pan-Asian food court of sorts, with fine examples of Korean barbecue, banh mi, Thai and Indian cuisine — as well as my favorite Mexican restaurant in town, but that is neither here nor there. I Pho is as authentic as any of them, attracting people able to order in Vietnamese as well as food tourists like myself.

When the basil leaves are appropriately wilted, I dig in with chopsticks and a spoon. Good pho carries some heat — more can always be added with chili paste and the aforementioned jalapeños, but mine is spicy enough to make my eyes water and nose run a bit. The soup has enough noodle to add bulk, but not so much that it overpowers the flavors of the broth and fresh vegetables. Same goes for the meat, which is ample enough to lend texture and flavor, but is still more a part of the symphony of flavors than the bulk of the dish.

I should add that pho is one of the healthiest things that I regularly eat, with fresh greens and sprouts loaded with nutrients, a broth that I use to fight off impending cold symptoms and not so much meat that the benefits of the dish are cancelled out.

The salubrious benefits are one of the reasons pho is so popular in this country — even in the Triad, which is a bit behind the curve in national culinary trends, you can get it at least a dozen places.

But the pho at I Pho is as good as any in town, perhaps even better than most. I’ll be back for more, and not just because it’s about a mile away from my desk. There are a few other variations on the dish I’d like to try, like the seafood or the vegetarian options. And there’s a Vietnamese dessert, che ba mau, made with sweet mung beans and grass jelly, that I suspect would go well with that fabulous iced coffee.

WANNA go?

I Pho; 4715 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336.355.9168

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