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Sunday
Sep122010

PHO or FAUX - Authentic Vietnamese in Westport

Ready for a little PIK me up? Head over to PHO GARDEN at 1620 Post Road in Westport for some authentic Vietnamese delights! This brand new Asian dining offering, (formerly Zole'), has simple decor and an unimpressive neon sign outside the door, but don't let this turn you off. PHO GARDEN'S authentic menu is a welcome addition to the Westport restaurant scene. Plus, with Pho Mekong closing its doors across the street, PHO GARDEN is definitely worth checking out!

We started with the COLD SUMMER ROLLS (Goi Cuon) which were refreshing and flavorful. We could smell the cilantro from around the corner and  the mint, vermacelli noodles, succulent pork, fresh shrimp, and crunchy veggies were perfectly encased in their rice paper wraps. A sweet, nutty sauce was there for dipping, topped with crunchy roasted peanuts and just a hint of spice. I'm embarrassed to say we followed this initial order with three subsequent requests for these light flavorful rolls. The CRISPY SPRING ROLLS (Cha Gio) were also delicious, packed with ground pork and glass noodles. There was a mild fish sauce in which the rolls were happy to be dunked, but I preferred to bathe mine in the light, slightly sweet, chili sauce. My favorite appetizer was the BEAN CURD SKIN (Tau Huky). Here, very thin sheets of Yuba or tofu skin surrounded freshly minced garlic, ginger, mushroom and spices with just a hint of soy sauce and honey and were (sorry!) deep fried.  I also dipped this in the sweet, chili sauce with a dab of my staple, SRIRACHA sauce (actually a Thai hot sauce containing hot chili, sugar, salt, garlic, and vinegar) which is a MUST ADD, if you like some spice in your life.

Next on the agenda were the longest short ribs we'd ever seen! Braised in a sweet, tangy marinade these long 'shorts' were pounded flat and served with simple greens. You can order these plain or served with fried rice as a main course. Perhaps not a dish or consistency I'd rush back for but many at the table felt that the seasoning on these was worth a second order. The EGG NOODLES with VEGETABLES (Rau Cai) sauteed in a light garlic sauce was a definite crowd-pleaser (and entirely suitable for the younger crowd). The snow peas, broccoli and red pepper were fresh and al dente and were a perfect compliment to the tender noodles on which they lay. Garnished with fresh black pepper, the Rau Cai is my kind of guy. Another simple but well executed dish was the VERMACELLI NOODLE with GRILLED SHRIMP (Bun Tom Nuong). Here, perfectly cooked, thin pasta was topped with plenty of seasoned shrimp and beautifully presented. The shrimp were fresh as could be, plump and tasty.

Then, of course, came the PHO. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup made with the broth and meat of beef, chicken, hen, or pork. It is probably the tell-tale dish which can make or break the decision to return to a Vietnamese restaurant. We went the chicken route (Pho Ga) and here's how it went down:

Pho comes as a steaming hot, gingery broth in a bowl with vermicelli noodles and meat already in place. Then, traditionally on the side, one gets a plate filled with bean sprouts, basil sprigs, cilantro, lime wedges, sometimes mint and often Thai chili or jalapeno peppers to drop in the soup.  PHO GARDEN provided all required items and the result was tasty and satisfying, if perhaps a tad under-spiced. However, as the weather gets colder, I can't think of anything more satisfying. 

PHO GARDEN is a great place for new-be Vietnamese tasters and even children can find yummy items that are mild and healthy. We tried the CHICKEN STIR FRY (Ga Xao Bong Cai) which was simply sauteed in a light garlic sauce with delicate spices and no "heat" to speak of. A child at the next table was chowing on this as well, along with the COLD SUMMER ROLLS, and she was happy as could be.

All this being said, it seems that PHO GARDEN is still testing the waters and taste buds of its Connecticut clientele. The CTBites crowd decided that the chefs might be catering to the wary taste buds of inexperienced Fairfield County-ers as all the dishes, though delicious, were a bit too mild. We say, "Bring it on PHO GARDEN - we're ready for more!" 

NOTE: Only recently opened, PHO GARDEN is still working out some service and timing kinks. Be patient. 

Related Articles: Pho Saigon: Real Pho...Really Off The Beaten Path

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    PHO or FAUX - Authentic Vietnamese in Westport - CT Bites - Restaurants, Recipes, Food, Fairfield County, CT

Reader Comments (9)

So glad to see an authentic Vietnamese restaurant open up locally. Hopefully, with feedback like yours, they will adjust the menu to become even more "authentic." Can't wait to try it.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette

Went to Pho last night based on the above review and photos with high expectations. In short, it was Faux. Very limited menu, 80% is pork, saw two couples leave after reading the menu, and had a horrible stomachache within 90 minutes.

They will need to make significant improvements if they plan to survive in our town or even compete with Pho Mekong down the street.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWestport Foodie

By lacking that authentic "spice"....do you mean they just don't know how to season food?

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Loved the summer rolls. Short ribs were tasty but tough - and, come on, there is hardly any meat there.. Liked the Pho. All in all, good but far from great - but it's early. Hopefully service will improve after a few weeks. Will try it again, for takeout.

Unless I read past it, the review did miss one of the key selling points of the restaurant... BYO.

I remain optimistic that, like The King and I (Thai) in Bridgeport & Black Rock, this will become a go-to place when one has the urge for Vietnamese food - but it's not there yet.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Grimm

Loved nothing about this place. Wait staff were friendly enough but everything was bland beyond belief even though I asked for things to be spiced up ahead of time based on the comments above.

They claim their menu is expanding in a couple weeks and welcomed me back. But why wouldn't you work on an interesting menu prior to opening? Got me...

And only one vegetarian dish on the menu...come on now. I loved the Vietnamese places when I lived in San Francisco. This was ridiculous. I have no idea what clientele they think they are catering to.

September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMasterofLightChick

Very disappointing. My wife and I love Vietnamese food and the overall experience was poor. Dishes used subpar and fatty meats, and two of three were overcooked. No cilantro which is a key ingredient in this cuisine. Service was not good either and bill was $20 too high...he double counted two dishes. Sorry to say we will not be returning

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatt

We have eaten at Pho three times now and I have to disagree with people's comments. The beauty of Vietnamese food is the simplicity of it's ingredients. The last time we went, we asked them to make the food like they would make for their families, the gentleman seemed rather surprised, but the food came out well spiced and seasoned. On all three occasions for lunch, we found the service to be prompt and courteous.

The fresh spring rolls were delicious as was the fried shredded tofu which was crunchy and not at all greasy. The Bun was delicious and we simply asked for an extra serving of the dressing and some Shiracha. All of the herbs were fresh and the mung bean sprouts that came with the pho were crisp and fresh.

I think the owners have purposely made the food light on the spice so they can let people spice to their own tastes. If you want more, JUST ASK...

We will happily be returning often to Pho Garden again.

September 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Straight

We ate here about a week after it opened, and haven't been back. We were big fans of Pho Mekong and I can't wait to try Pho Saigon on Iranistan in Bridgeport, but this place had a very limited menu, almost all noodle-based, and our dishes were remarkably bland. Also, while the flavor of the summer rolls was quite good, the rice paper could have been fresher, which is crazy considering you just dip the dry paper in warm water and then wrap ingredients in it. Don't know that we'll return.

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTravels4Food

FYI, Pho Garden has closed. Supposedly an italian place is going in...

March 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkbfood

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