Since I’ve inadvertently made Birmingham my new lunch spot for my Atlanta trips, it’s only fitting that I see what sort of Asian food the city has to offer. The problem with that is figuring where to start. I’ve read about a few Thai places and a Chinese grocery that is definitely worth a visit, but this trip I was in the mood for pho. Sure it’s 100 degrees outside and I’m wearing jeans, but those are terrible reasons for skipping a piping hot bowl of noodle soup.
After navigating through the left lane hogs of 459, it was just a few miles on I-65 before I found the exit for Pho Que Huong. I’d love to say that I’m the first to write about the Birmingham option but gas-tron-o-my beat me to the punch. Oddly enough she didn’t write anything about the pho. So with no preconception, I set about getting a healthy lunch and a good taste for Pho Que Huong.
While plowing through the rather large menu, I began to wonder, what three dishes should one pick to represent a Vietnamese restaurant? It really is a loaded question and I can’t imagine there would be a completely incorrect answer. Erring on the side of caution, I decided that a banh mi, a summer roll, and a bowl of pho would have to provide a good overview of Pho Que Huong.
The summer rolls (goi cuon) were the first to arrive at my table. Stuffed with shrimp, pork, lettuce, and rice noodles and served cold, a summer roll was the perfect dish to take the edge of that July heat. Actually these are smaller than what I’m used to and they aren’t as densely packed. There seemed to be less pork than I was expecting as well, but the shrimp were well cooked and the peanut sauce was a wonderful compliment to the whole roll. It seems like it’s so far so good at Pho Que Huong.
A Banh Mi was next and this time it’s a Bahn Mi Thap Cam or a combination of Vietnamese Ham and char xiu.Even though this is on the expensive side for Bahn Mis, this is still a lot of food for the money. The meats are juicy and delicious, the cilantro, carrots, onions, and jalapenos proved just the right contrast to the rich pork, and even the odd mayo works well here. It’s hard to find a banh mi around Jackson, so I’m not as well versed in them as I’d like, but mayo just doesn’t seem to make sense with the ingredients here. However that’s all theory and in practice the mayo works.
Lastly came Pho Que Hung’s namesake dish, the bowl of pho. Specifically a bowl of Pho Dac Biet, or eye round, brisket, soft tendon, and tripe combo, this bowl was immediately satisfying. There was a subtle cinnamon and anise flavor to the broth with the bulk being a combination of beefy and sweet. There were a few key differences between this bowl of Pho Dac Biet and the one from my local place, Saigon. First the beef pieces were bigger, tenderer, and had the look of being hand sliced not machine sliced. Another difference is the size of the soft tendon, you can’t miss them in this bowl of pho. Now there were a few annoying features to this bowl of pho. There was a pitifully small amount of bean sprouts for a bowl of this size and there was no hoisin sauce in sight. Aside from that, this was a solid bowl of pho; not particularly outstanding but hugely satisfying when you have pho on the mind.
When you give a restaurant one chance, you’re really playing into a crapshoot. There are so many variables that make a good restaurant experience, and just one sour note can ruin the whole experience. Unfortunately, I don’t get to Birmingham often enough to give Pho Que Huong multiple tries, but in this instance the wait staff was prompt and friendly and the food fast and tasty. I have plenty of Birmingham left to explore but this is already my go to spot for pho.