Fake Plants, Real Phở


Phở Hung
3120 SE 82nd Ave.
Portland, OR 97266

We say: 

Mmm, phở. That broth, so distinctive and delicious, the soft starchy rice noodles, our personalized amounts of bean sprouts, basil, lime and peppers mixed in: a perfect dinner almost any night of the year, but especially now, as the weather makes the outdoors an enemy and, if you take a drink of hot tea, you can see your breath inside your own house.

As far as we can tell, Phở Hung’s offerings seem pretty authentic, which means there’s no vegetarian option; it’s made of beef broth, period. There is a chicken choice (phở gà), though, and one can get the broth with just noodles and no meat. We like how they set it up on their menu, ranging from “For Beginners” to “The Adventurer’s Choice.” We ordered from “For Beginners,” meat-free for lakelia and phở gà for bakinakwa. This wasn’t the best phở we’ve ever had, but it was damn good. The main things holding it back were the broth being slightly too salty and the rice noodles a little chewy. lakelia also prefers the style, a regional variation, where more vegetables are added to the soup.  As for the phở gà, some undesirable pieces of chicken found their way in, but not enough to spoil anything. bakinakwa also had the egg rolls which come a little too crammed with chicken and shrimp, making for a somewhat strange combination of tastes.  They’re accompanied by an unusual sour dip which packs a strong burst of flavor that subsides quickly.

The highlight of Phở Hung on 82nd is its beautiful decor. It’s not overly fancy or expensive (the plants, for instance, are mostly fake), but it’s lovely and inviting and calm and comfortable. We love the walls, the pale wooden paneling on the lower parts and the woven pattern that covers the tops, the bamboo lattice overhangs, the white paper lanterns gathered in the center of the room. The whole place is filled with warm, golden colors, including the chairs and the marble-topped tables, accented by some small potted palm trees and hanging plants with white flowers. They also play soothing instrumental music at a volume that still allows for conversation. There’s something about the way the space is set up that makes it seem welcoming and pleasantly relaxed even when it’s full of people, conversations all around and the phone behind the counter ringing regularly.

The waiters and waitresses are generally friendly, if a little hurried.  The crowd seems to be a blend of hip, young Vietnamese, some families, a few college students and other phở converts.  Its surroundings on 82nd, one of Portland’s uglier drags, is less than stellar, but we promise you won’t notice from within. As we ourselves are phởnatics, you can bet we’ll get around to all of Portland’s phở spots eventually, but for now we’re content to keep returning to Phở Hung whenever we need a dose of that cheap, warming wonder.

Our rating: 3.5 Stars


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