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Pho Tien sells steamed shrimp spring rolls two for $5. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Pho Tien sells steamed shrimp spring rolls two for $5. (Michael Cooper / American Press)

Pho Tien remains popular on local scene

Last Modified: Friday, July 05, 2013 3:59 PM

By Michael Cooper / American Press

In the mood for something a little different, two co-workers and I went to Pho Tien Vietnamese Restaurant recently.

Pho Tien, located at 4415 Nelson Road, opened in 2008 and has been the place to go for Vietnamese fare since.

Some shy away from international cuisine because they lack an understanding or have preconceived notions about what it is.

Vietnamese food may seem a little strange and odd. There are spicy dishes — anything with curry — and some items that even I refuse to try, like raw blood soup. No different from the spicy crab stew and head cheese found in Cajun cuisine.

You can expect balanced flavors, fresh ingredients and heavy use of vegetables in almost all Vietnamese cooking. Most dishes are grilled, baked or steamed rather than fried, making Vietnamese one of the healthiest ethnic cuisines in the world.

The waitress at Pho Tien was helpful to us in selecting our meals and there is a pretty extensive picture menu at the counter to get around any language barrier.

The menu can be broken down into five categories — appetizers, vermicelli noodle salads, rice plates, stir-fried dishes and soups.

The soups, known as Pho, come in three sizes. It was pretty obvious from looking at the other diners’ orders that soup is a popular item at Pho Tien.

The stir-fried dishes, rice plates and vermicelli salads all come in a wide range of variations.

Beef, pork, chicken, shrimp and salmon appear often as the meat option while tofu is the main ingredient for the vegetarian choices.

The appetizers at Pho Tien’s are pretty varied as well. There is a selection of spring rolls, egg rolls, meat kabobs, dumplings, fried tofu, shrimp toast and edamame.

Neither John Guidroz nor Lance Traweek wanted an appetizer but I had to have a steamed shrimp spring roll.

A spring roll, whether fried or steamed, is meat, vegetables and noodles rolled in thin rice paper. You won’t detect much flavor in a spring roll. The majority of the taste comes from the dipping sauce, which in this case was peanut.

I loved the spring rolls and would order them again in a heartbeat. The peanut sauce at Pho Tien was far better than most I have tried.

For the main course, all three of us ordered rice plates.

Each rice plate comes with a small side salad which includes shredded lettuce, tomatoes, large slices of cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon. I personally loved the salad, especially the cucumbers and pickled carrots.

John ordered the shaken beef with fried rice. He said it was a lot like pepper steak one would get from a Chinese restaurant. The dish came with a small bowl of salt, pepper and limes. John said he didn’t use much of it as the meat was seasoned well enough already.

Lance went with the roasted chicken and fried rice. The rice had a pan-fried egg sitting on top. He said the chicken, which was chopped up with the bones still in it, was a little dry. A small bowl of brown sauce was provided for dipping and Lance said it tasted a lot like bourbon chicken sauce.

I ordered the grilled chicken and steamed rice. The steamed rice was OK but could be considered a little overcooked by some. The grilled chicken, a charbroiled piece of boneless breast meat, really stood out, though. I have no idea what kind of spices were used and the only way I describe it is fresh, lean and delicious.

I know this sounds a bit silly but I put a lot of stock in a restaurant’s ability to deliver a good fountain drink. I feel that if an establishment can’t operate a simple soda machine then they have no business trying to serve me food. Pho Tien’s drinks were really good and you could tell they put some work in keeping it clean.

As much as I enjoyed the food I don’t think I will be going with my family. I will be back, just not with the kids.

Pho Tien is not really a kid-friendly place. There are simply not enough options on the menu for most children. I suggest that if you do go with kids, steer them to the meat kabobs or soups.

Our bill was $42.51, a little high for lunch. But the food was good and we were able to get in and out in under an hour.

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