Phở Tây in Boise is a newly opened Vietnamese restaurant that seems to be hitting all the right notes. Open since December, it has an open, airy feeling with tables and booths topped with nice wood finishes. Decorative placemats serve as a good place to place the dishes on, while guests have a choice of both forks or sleek, thin metal chopsticks to eat with. One wall is taken up by a nice bar that serves as both a great place for the single diner to enjoy their meal as well as a convenient place to pick up the to-go orders which seem to be very popular at Phở Tây. Vietnamese pop music along with a combination of familiar Western tunes and easy listening songs makes you think you just might be dining at a restaurant in Saigon.
The menu at Phở Tây is nice in a minimalist sort of way. The restaurant has opted for a few dishes done well instead of a menu with lots of choices. Appetizers include crispy Vietnamese fried egg rolls and two types of vegan rolls, crispy and spring roll types. Gỏi cuốn is the highlight here, the Vietnamese spring roll that consists of thin rice vermicelli noodles, fresh mint, chives, pork and shrimp, all rolled burrito-style in a thin, translucent piece of rice paper. The rolls, cut in half, can be dipped in either a peanut sauce or Vietnam’s popular condiment fish sauce. Phở Tây’s version is excellent, with fresh flavors and a generous portion of rolls that can be enjoyed by several diners. If it seems that every table has them, they do; it is not only a popular appetizer but a delicious one too.
At some Phở restaurants, especially in larger Vietnamese areas such as Orange County California’s Little Saigon District can have twenty or more versions of phở. At Phở Tây in Boise, they have concentrated on four versions of the soup. The most popular one is Phở dặc biệt, the beef phở, which comes in two varieties. The first version will appeal to everyone’s tastes, with slices of thin-sliced rib eye steak, brisket and flank steak that provide an interesting beefy contrast. For more adventurous diners, Vietnamese meatballs and beef tendon can be added to the soup.
The broth is quite nice, with a depth of flavor that only comes from long simmering of beef, beef bones, onions and spices. Served on top of the vermicelli noodles and with thin slices of soft onion floating in the broth, this makes a nice soup to enjoy. One thing to remember is that phở is not intended to be eaten as it is served. A vegetable/herb plate accompanies it, with fresh bean sprouts, thin slices of jalapeño pepper, cilantro, fresh Thai basil and sliced lime. These, along with the soy sauce, fish sauce, Hoisin sauce (Chinese BBQ sauce), red chili paste and Sriracha sauce at the table, are intended to allow each diner to make the phở suit their exact tastes.
Phở Tây in Boise also has a chicken version of the soup called Phở Gà. Chicken broth is used as well as chicken breast for a lighter dish and the bowl is served with the same vegetable/herb plate. The final version of the soup hails from Huế in Central Vietnam, from the royal (before 1945) capital city of the country. Bún bò Huế is a pork and beef-based soup. Unlike the mild phở broth, this broth is made of a rich beef broth that includes hearty beef shins with pork bones added also, flecked with red chili oil for a hot and spicy taste and having a subtle flavor from lemongrass and shrimp paste. It may not be for everyone, but once you’ve had Bún bò Huế you’ll find it a soup to crave. Thick round noodles add a chewiness not found in the other soups. Slices of ham, beef and other goodies make this a very hearty, flavorful soup. This version may not be made with all the traditional ingredients common in Little Saigon, but it still is a delicious soup.
Phở Tây has two versions of the popular Bánh Mi sandwich, a delicious sandwich that is slowly making its way onto many American restaurant menus these days. Made on a fresh baguette, one version uses grilled pork while the other a combination of steamed pork, pork loaf and pork paté. Crisp pickled and fresh veggies and herbs along with a slathering of mayo balance out this tasty sandwich.
While phở is perfect for a cold winter day in Boise, Bún thịt Nướng (grilled pork with vermicelli noodles) is the perfect food for a nice, warm (or even hot) day. This refreshing dish is made with a nice portion of the thin rice noodles, covered with tender slices of grilled pork, and topped with garden-fresh cucumber, bean sprouts, carrot, daikon radish and basil. A cup of chopped peanuts is brought to garnish it as well as a cup of dressing, a tangy mixture of fish sauce with lime, sugar and other ingredients that has subtle, sweet/salty/tangy flavor that nicely complements the dish. Phở Tây’s version is excellent, with some of the best grilled pork I’ve found at any place, in a portion that is also much more generous than most restaurants. The pork was not only grilled nicely, but the slices were also juicy, something which is rare to find in this dish in other restaurants.
Several House Specials besides Bún thịt Nướng round out the menu of Phở Tây in Boise. Two types of steamed free-range chicken, a fried noodle dish and a fried rice dish provide other choices. Typically, Vietnamese food is much healthier than a lot of other cuisines, with steamed and grilled dishes and fresh vegetables and herbs much more common than fried dishes and thick, sweet and heavy sauces. Phở Tây is a good choice for those who want to eat a healthy dish without sacrificing flavor. The servers are friendly and efficient and knowledgeable in the different Vietnamese dishes. They are an excellent choice for those in the Boise area that want to enjoy the best of what Vietnamese cuisine has to offer.
Phở Tây Vietnamese Noodles
10548 W. Fairview Avenue
Boise, ID 83704
Phone: (208) 377-1775