Pho Down! We Tried the Build-It-Yourself Pho Trend
The simple Asian noodle soup known as pho is the next star in the build-it-yourself restaurant craze. We sent writers to two new pho shops to determine how to build the best bowl at each place.
The story:Opened in Clintonville by husband-and-wife team Ian Capotosta (a trained chef) and Lisa Bui (who pulled from her family's Vietnamese recipes to create pho, bunh mi and com bowls here), 6-1-Pho serves Vietnamese-style street food in a counter-order setting.
The bowl:The beauty at 6-1-Pho is they don't reinvent the wheel-diners' only options are the basics: broth (beef, chicken and veg) and protein. If your diet allows, go with the classic beef broth, pleasantly spiked with star-anise (though chicken stock gets high marks for its aromatics). Skip the too-Italian-tasting meatballs and instead add raw steak, which will be thoroughly cooked in its steaming broth bath with a generous mound of al dente rice noodles by the time you pull up a neon-green stool.
The classic accoutrements automatically come on the side, to be added at your leisure-Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, scallions and lime. Jalapenos accompany by request (the answer here is always yes), and an added splash of hoisin gives the dish the touch of sweetness it needs.61pho.com -Beth Stallings
Phy Phom Pho
The story:Maggie Ailabouni, owner of Mazah, met her best friend, Phy Phom, when the two worked together in Ailabouni's family's grocery store. Twenty years later, they still work together in Ailabouni's new Cambodian build-it-yourself pho concept, Phy Phom Pho in Grandview.
The bowl:Phom, who assists in the kitchen daily, is responsible for the pho's centerpiece: the broth. MSG-free, these broths aren't heavily influenced by traditional toasted aromatics. That said, choosing the broth is simple. Beef wins every time. What goes great with beef broth? More beef, marinated in fish sauce. The next decision in creating the perfect Phy Phom Pho bowl is knowing when to say no. Yes to the shredded carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, Thai basil and lime. Yes to the egg and cilantro, too. But hold off on the special slaw (the ginger overpowers) and the cucumber (because there's no place on the palate for soggy warm cukes). Top it all off with sweet and spicy condiments tailored to taste. Me? I like two dashes of Sriracha. -Jill Moorhead