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DINING: Pho sizzles up flavorful Vietnamese comfort food

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Dining - A&E
Pho with Rare Beef  at Pho Asian restaurant Pho with Rare Beef has Thai basil, sprouts and pepper on the side, but we put them in the soup. Result: A satisfying meal.(IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

If meat is identified as “rare” on the menu and, while at your table, it becomes “medium,” is it misidentified?

A purely philosophical question, I know, but one that occurred to me as I watched the pink meat dramatically darken in the steaming bowl at the center of our table after we ordered the Pho (pronounced fuh) with Rare Beef ($7.25) at Pho Asian (10240 E. U.S. 36, Avon, 271-7999).

However it’s labeled, the communal bowl of Vietnamese comfort food proved an ideal way to decompress after sitting in Rockville Road traffic. As is the tradition, Pho Asian serves the bowl of rice noodles; beef; and clear, flavorful broth simply, with the option of individual embellishment from a side plate of Thai basil, bean sprouts, chili peppers and lime.

At first, we added one fresh ingredient at a time, appreciating how each flavor enhanced the already satisfying soup. But eventually we gave in and just loaded everything into the big bowl. The result was a complete meal that would have completely satisfied us.

But then I’d be shirking my reviewer duties, right?

Still, hindsight made clear that it really wasn’t necessarily for us to have ordered the Spring Rolls ($3.50), although with enough shrimp inside and peanut sauce for dipping, who can complain?

On the entrée front, the unpretentious strip-center eatery (generic tables, Katie Perry on the stereo) also serves dishes more familiar to suburban America, including House Lo Mein ($8.95) and Sesame Chicken ($7.25), both of which were fine, but given more character by a splash of Sriracha sauce. More worthy of the drive was a delicious—if not particularly healthful—Katsu Chicken ($7.50) featuring two breaded, tenderloin-size chicken slabs. (Is it the panko bread crumbs that make the difference?)•

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Last in a month-long series of reviews of new ethnic eateries. In December: new restaurants we somehow didn’t get to in the last 11 months.

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