Pho: the Vietnamese Restaurant in Las Vegas
Phở is synonymous with Vietnamese food, and with the upcoming Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), I thought I’d share with you my impressions about “Pho”, the only Vietnamese restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. What is phở (pronounced "fuh" like the beginning of the word "fudge"), you ask? I know I'm biased, but I think phở is the best street food in the world. It's a beef broth soup served with rice noodles and tender, thin pieces of flank steak flavored with traditional Vietnamese spices.
Whether we go for one of my husband Lulu’s conferences, the Penn and Teller show, the controversial Human Body exhibit, The Phantom of the Opera, Le Cirque du Soleil or simply want a great eating experience, I go to Pho whenever I need a Vietnamese comfort food fix in Sin City. And if you’re looking for an eatery after watching a show; Pho is open until 3 a.m. on weekends.
Located within The Coffee Shop at Treasure Island Hotel, the 30-seat restaurant has a minimal, very unpretentious décor. A few Asian-inspired murals with bamboo at the entry emphasize the Vietnamese atmosphere. The crowd is pretty eclectic with a few Asian people, which is always a good indicator. The food and the portions are good. Even though the food is quite authentic, I would say that the menu caters to an American palate. If you’re coming from an area with a lot of Vietnamese restaurants, the prices will seem steep, but they are very reasonable when compared to other eateries on The Strip. I stopped by to taste the food and chat with Executive Chef Craig Taylor and Sous-Chef Chef Đinh Tiến about Pho, and, of course, food.
Chefs Craig Taylor and Đinh Tiến.
Three and a half years ago, you opened the first Vietnamese restaurant on the Strip, which is very different from the standard meat & potatoes. Is your restaurant a good indicator of how The Strip has evolved over the years, culinarily speaking?
Absolutely. Opening a Vietnamese restaurant on The Strip really reflects how the mentalities have changed. Since there was no Vietnamese restaurant before us, we were kind of the guinea pigs. From day one it was a hit, and we still remain at the cutting edge.
Do you think Vietnamese food is becoming popular in the US? What would you recommend for first-timers to start with?
Yes, Vietnamese food is becoming better known and popular. There is a lot of French influence in Vietnamese cuisine, which makes it less alien. Also, people like Vietnamese food because the food is very unique and healthy. We serve a lot of fresh ingredients such as Vietnamese mint, bean sprouts and Thai basil. We would recommend chả giò (egg rolls), bún thịt nướng (char-broiled meat with rice vermicelli noodles), bò kho (Vietnamese beef stew) with tomato rice and of course end the meal with some cà phê (Vietnamese-style coffee).
Do you serve breakfast? I ask because in Vietnam, phở is as good in the morning as it is for lunch and dinner.
No. We open at 11am.
What is your most popular dish?
Everything is popular. I'd say eggrolls, curry chicken and phở (of course).
Chef Đinh Tiến, preparing phở broth.
What is your most memorable cooking experience on The Strip?
Christmas Eve. It gets very busy.
What do you serve for Christmas?
The same, authentic Vietnamese food, all year long.
How about for Thanksgiving. No phở turkey?
(laugh) No phở turkey.
When I first came into the restaurant, I was surprised by the number of guests speaking Vietnamese. That’s always a good sign. Please describe your clientele.
We cater to executives, but we get a fair number of Asians, which speaks to our authenticity.
Question to Chef Taylor: What do you like about Vietnamese cooking? What got you into it?
I love the French influence in Vietnamese cooking. It’s very healthy as well. I love how the stocks are made, which is similar to French stocks, and the bread is almost identical to French bread.
What’s your pet peeve?
It gets very hot in the kitchen!
We’re ending the year of the tiger and 2011 will be the year of the cat. If you happen to be in Las Vegas during the Tết celebrations, it’s worth checking out Pho.
If, like us, you’re going to be in the Bay Area, I’m sure you’ve heard of all the fun activities in both San Jose and San Francisco. We're looking forward to attending the parade here this weekend. Maybe we’ll see you there!