A Taste of Vietnam

Pho Grand is a small Vietnamese restaurant located in the outskirts of Chinatown on the corner of Grand and Forsyth.

From the outside, the plain yellow building is unnoticeable where it sits nestled between two busy market shops.  Upon opening the heavy wooden door and stepping inside, however, customers soon realize the excellent culinary experience that awaits them.

The interior of the restaurant is nearly all wooden, from the stained oak floor and paneled walls to the low-hanging rafters that interweave across the narrow room.  Strands of glittering white Christmas lights hang loosely from these rafters and add a warm ambiance to the dimly lit room.

A large black mirror breaks the monotony of the wooden walls in the back where it hangs in a subtle attempt to add depth to the cozy little space.  Other visual accents come from the various awards and recognitions that speckle the walls ranging from sources such as the New York Times to the Village Voice.  The most impressive of these plaques is Pho Grand’s nomination from the Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in America competition, which gives them an overall excellence rating of 99.25%.

Despite this recognition, meals are relatively cheap, with plates ranging from $4 to $12.  The menu boasts an impressive 131 options, ranging from the namesake Pho (a watery, noodle-based Vietnamese soup) to differing chicken, beef and fish dishes.  The entire guide is printed in native Vietnamese characters with brief and basic English descriptions following.  Orders must be identified by number to one of the five staffers in stiff white shirts who bustle about the busy room.

The quick service of the staff is impressive as orders are taken immediately, meals are prepared in under 15 minutes, and glasses of water never drop below half-full before being refilled.

The food itself comes in large portions that could easily be divided into two or three servings if only the delicious taste didn’t tempt one to gobble it all up immediately.  The meals are expertly assembled from all fresh ingredients whose natural flavors blend together to create a truly organic taste.  This is refreshing when compared to the all-too-common greasy sauce-soaked Chinese take-out food of a similar price.

Despite its modest location, Pho Grand is an excellent low-key restaurant with speedy service, low prices and great food.

CityRobert Punchur