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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.3
7.0
$15
Vietnamese
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Sat 10:30am–10:30pm

Features Kid-friendly
Bar Beer
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

82nd Avenue Area
2518 NE 82nd Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 262-8816
Pho Oregon
A broth so good, it encourages a chorus of noisy slurpers

Many people remember Pho Oregon fondly from its besteepled Sandy Boulevard location, which has since become the even more excellent Pho An Sandy. Pho Oregon’s 82nd Avenue incarnation is more like a huge mess hall, and it sounds like one, too. Even at 2:30pm on a Sunday, it’s full of people—all, rather encouragingly, seem to be of Asian descent.

The space is fairly standard and utilitarian, with predictable, but modern furnishings that make it look much nicer than Pho An Sandy. The high ceilings and about forty tables of lacquered granite serve as noise amplifiers, sending conversations and slurping noises orbiting around the room. There’s a vaguely pan-Asian look to the accessories: an array of Chinese-looking vases with colorful flowers; watercolors of pagodas; and porcelain statues.

Pho is always good, but try the many other Vietnamese specialties on the menu, especially bo la lot. This is a South Vietnamese street food we rarely see: ground beef wrapped with pepper leaves that you can wrap with mint, cilantro, and jalapeño in rice paper and dip in fish sauce. Skip the pedestrian “Salad Rolls,” also known as fresh spring rolls, which are cursed with romaine lettuce and bland, overcooked chicken and pasty shrimp. The peanut sauce has an unexpected kick, which is nice.

For something more challenging, try the alluring and complex chao long—rice soup with coagulated pork blood (like bits of soft sausage), liver, heart, and minced pork. We guarantee that upon consumption of a bowl of this, whatever’s wrong with you—emotional, physical, or mental—will seem to vanish.

But if you stick to pho, we don’t blame you: this broth is outstanding, with strong aromatics of beef, clove, and anise. Order it with fatty brisket to impart more flavor, and tripe for a funky offal element; meatballs have quite a lot of gristle in them, but rare eye round steak is good. Noodles are fine, if a bit overcooked. Overall, Pho An Sandy’s pho is a little better, but Pho Oregon’s broth, by itself, is king.

To drink, there are the usual beers in bottle, and for dessert, bubble tea and smoothies in a slew of flavors like durian, avocado, and jackfruit. Or just do what we do and have another bowl of broth.

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