Restaurant Review – Pho, Yeah!

If you like vegetables and sugar, have I got the place for you. I recently dined at my favorite Vietnamese food establishment. Pho Xinh is conveniently located at the Centerton Square complex in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. They offer a range of fine Vietnamese cuisine including one of my all-time favorite dishes: pho.


For those readers who don’t share my adventurous approach to dining out, pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. I know that many Americans perceive food from the Orient as well, “different.” However, the ingredients in this meal should be very familiar to anyone. It consists of rice noodles, onion, scallions and cilantro. A dish containing basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno and limes is provided separately. Diners can add as much of or as little of them to the soup as they like. Patrons also have the option of a variety of meats. They include shrimp, fish, steak, chicken, and brisket among others. On my latest visit to Pho Xinh I sampled the fish pho. Regular readers of my column are aware of both my love of seafood and my need for brain food. I relished the opportunity to indulge the two in one sitting.


Please be forewarned: jalapenos are very hot. Hot soup is also very hot. If you choose to add the peppers: be very careful before putting them into scalding hot soup. I like my pho to have just the right kick. I use the Thai Peppers from the condiment rack on the table. Be extra forewarned: Thai Peppers are even hotter. In addition, they tend to settle at the bottom of the bowl. If you place them in the soup, do so sparingly. Do not chug the soup when you get to the end. You will be sorry…quite possibly for days to come.


If you do enjoy hot dishes, and like me, are looking for something to help clear your sinuses as allergy season is upon us, Pho Xinh also serves Hue’s Style Spicy Beef Noodle Soup. I haven’t tried this in a while, but it is excellent and extremely spicy. I enjoy it, but it may be too hot for some diners. Just as a friendly bit of advice: you probably will want to take a sip prior to adding jalapenos or Thai peppers. My guess is that diners will be spicy enough without them.  


I know it’s hard to believe that a bowl of soup could be filling enough for one meal. Pho isn’t like an appetizer one gets with a main course: it is a main course. I’ve never finished it and not felt completely satisfied with the meal. The ingredients may seem pretty simple, but the refreshing taste makes it very distinct. The fish pho—or Pho Ca Vien—had a bit of a sour taste as a lot of Oriental dishes do. I more than offset this by washing it down with a Thai Iced Tea. This beverage tasted sweet and creamy almost like an iced cappuccino. The flavor pleasantly surprised me. I’ve had Vietnamese Coffee before, so it shouldn’t have amazed me that other drinks from that part of the world have the same sugary taste.


As I wrote I’ve never eaten pho and still felt hungry. On this occasion I didn’t want to take a chance, though. I began my meal with the Spring Rolls, in honor of the new season. I don’t typically order appetizers, but was glad I did on this occasion. It contained vegetables, Asian herbs and spices, held together in an egg roll coating. A syrupy carrot sauce accompanied it for dipping. I still remember my mother admonishing me to eat my greens. With vegetable dishes like the ones at Pho Xinh, I’m sure glad I kept up the habit.


At dinner’s conclusion I had to wrap up my dining experience with something really unusual. I saw it on the menu earlier and just had to try it: I ordered the Avocado Shake. There are those who say avocado has no flavor. They’ve obviously never had this. I’d encourage them to sample this drink. I could really taste the milk shake while at the same time the avocado flavor steadily replaced it. For diners looking to try something like they’ve never had before, I’d encourage them to give this beverage a shot. I understand it’s not something everyone would care for, but it’s certainly worth at least one try.


I thought the staff very polite, friendly and courteous. Between all the sugar and caffeine I consumed I may not have been the easiest customer for them to handle. If that was the case they certainly didn’t show it.  I found them extremely professional and customer focused.


My only criticism involved the music. When I’ve dined at establishments featuring non-American food they’ve typically played music from that country. At Pho Xinh they played soft jazz over the loud speaker. Personally, I would’ve preferred to hear music from the Orient. I thought it would’ve added to the ambiance better.


Pho Xinh doesn’t just limit their menu to pho. They offer a variety of Vietnamese cuisine. Many other tasty looking choices are available that I haven’t had the opportunity to try yet.  My review focused on the pho just because it’s one of my favorite meals, especially on cool days. In the event you’re in the South Jersey area and would like to sample some fine food from the Orient I’d strongly recommend Pho Xinh. Would I encourage readers to try the noodle soup? “Pho, yeah!”  


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