The stretch of Mass Ave between Harvard Square and Porter Square in Cambridge has some of the best restaurants in greater Boston - The Abbey for top notch bar food, Bagelsaurus for a killer breakfast, Giulia for authentic Italian and Temple Bar for seasonally-inspired fare. Adding to that list is Pho House, a mecca of Thai and Vietnamese dishes from pho to banh mi.
We arrived on a weeknight, just after 7:15pm and there were plenty of seats open in the dining room. The hostess walked us to a cozy booth toward the back of the restaurant. Our waiter popped over with menus. The Pho House menu is 22 pages long, rivaling the Cheesecake Factory in length.
Many of the menu pages have photos, which is super helpful as most of us eat with our eyes.
There is also a handy code at the top of the first page that explains the symbols that mark if a dish is spicy, vegetarian or can be made gluten-free.
To begin, my dinner date and I each decided on a fun beverage - the lychee juice for her and the jasmine limeade for me.
She loved the sweetness of the lychee juice, while I felt the flavors in the jasmine limeade weren't very jasmine or very lime tasting.
After reading through all 20+ page of the menu, we selected two appetizers to share. The first to arrive was the steamed gyoza. These had a great texture both inside and out and were even more delicious when swimming in the accompanying ginger sauce.
We both remarked how much we loved the emerald green ceramic plate.
We also shared the vegetarian crispy roll. The outer shell had an awesome crunch and you got a bit of heat when dunking it into the peanut sauce (which I think was garnished with some kind of hot pepper). One warning: these are served super duper hot and even after you cut into them, it takes nearly 10 minutes for them to cool down enough to eat without burning your mouth!
For an entree, my friend went with the Rad Nah which was wide noodles stir-fried in gravy brown sauce with carrots, broccoli, Chinese broccoli and baby corn. She also opted to add tofu.
When I asked for her opinion of the dish she said, "This is a really generous portion of noodles and veggies. I am excited to have leftovers for lunch. Though this was delicious, I think next time I'll go back to what I had on my last visit, the drunken noodles, simply because the spicy sauce they come in is fantastic."
When we made our dinner date for Pho House I was convinced I would get ramen. I have just been on such a ramen kick. However, Pho House has an entire vegetarian section of their menu, so I fell down the rabbit hole!
In the end, I ordered crispy basil tofu which was breaded tofu topped with sauteed onion, red and green peppers, carrots, pineapple, green peas and basil in a sweet chili sauce. This menu item was marked with two of the hot pepper symbols (extra spicy!) so I was a bit nervous.
As you can see, this dish comes with large tofu triangles, battered, fried and then topped with all the veggies and what I believe was fried basil. The tofu is breaded like a mozzarella stick - the batter is light, but has a gratifying crunch in every bite. The sweet chili sauce was awesome and definitely not as spicy as advertised (thankfully). It came with a large side of white rice, which I used to soak up every last drop of sauce in the bottom of the bowl. This is the kind of dish that you are craving again before you've even left the restaurant.
If you are looking for additional Asian places to add to your list, you have to try Pho House. Don't be deterred by the large menu, everything we tasted was an A+.