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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Sun–Thu 10:00am–9:30pm
Fri–Sat 10:00am–10:00pm

Bar Beer, wine
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Accepted


3404 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR
(503) 230-1474
Tue–Sun 11:00am–9:30pm

82nd Avenue Area
1919 SE 82nd Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 788-5244

11651 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy.
Beaverton, OR
(503) 627-0822
Daily 11:00am–9:00pm
Pho Van
Once upon a time in Portland...

It’s the oldest story in the book: small Vietnamese restaurant gets “discovered” by local media…small Vietnamese restaurant expands to other branches…now-not-so-small Vietnamese restaurant chain solidifies reputation in media as go-to place in its culinary category…

…Now-verging-on-quite-large ethnic restaurant chain continues to expand, diluting quality…chain launches line of glossy supermarket-style condiments and sauces with big photo of smiling chef on label…one of those condiments is actually fish sauce, but it’s humorously renamed “house special dipping sauce”…

…Chain opens bumbling upscale branch aimed at see-and-be-seen Pearl district crowd (we’ll deal with Silk in its own review), which struggles...original branches lose their small-time charm and turn corporate, now re-furnished with upmarket-restaurant-catalog interior and nonstop soundtrack of elevator music that drives away some of its most faithful customers…those people defect to two superior restaurants elsewhere in the Portland area, Pho An Sandy and Pho Oregon…

…Pho Van staff refuses, upon request, to serve the thinly sliced steak pieces for the pho raw on the side, so that they can be dunked into the broth for a mere second and eaten rare, as they should be eaten…yet staff at Pho An Sandy and Pho Oregon will still do this...why won’t Pho Van, is beef of insufficient quality?...after a sort of negotiation, Pho Van staff might agree to place steak “on top of the broth,” but when bowl arrives, meat has already cooked to toughness…

…and the condiments are skimpy, composed (in the case of the small bowl) of a mere sprig of basil, handful of bean sprouts, and three measly slices of japaleño, whereas superior pho joints serve their bowls accompanied with a plate overflowing with herbs and vegetables…

…still, pho isn’t half-bad, noodles taste good, fatty brisket is satisfying, broth is aromatic and rich, and it’s hard to argue with seven-course beef, one of whose courses is fragrant with kaffir lime, or with whole roasted catfish for two…but that catfish is priced at a very corporate $29.95…and in the end, there are now just better, cheaper options out there, and, unless you’re an elevator music fan, there’s no remaining reason to patronize this Vietnamese restaurant over its smaller competitors…

…until they get famous, too, at which point the oldest story in the book starts again.

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