Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Baltimore Pho Vietnamese restaurant

One day recently when Joe was post-call, I whisked him up off the sidewalk on his walk home and took us to Baltimore Pho, the hot Vietnamese restaurant on Hollins St. across from the Hollins Market.

I'd been reading reviews all over the place from the Sun and Baltimore STYLE, and I was tired of not seeing for myself. First of all, we made mental notes to ourselves to come back to visit the Hollins Market. I've heard great things about its history (built in 1838 and is "Baltimore's oldest home to food merchants"). According to this website, Civil War soldiers stationed nearby used to stop at Hollins Market while supplies were shipped to Washington for Union soldiers in the field.

The decor is great. Exposed brick walls, tin ceilings, walls laden with archways to provide division without making rooms feel separate, and a great bar with lots of colored lighting and two flatscreen TVs. The restaurant only has 26 tables, so it feels intimate, which we always love. Boutique restaurants tend to take better care of their customers.

This lunch day was slow, so we were rewarded with a very attentive, informative waiter. The restaurant owner served in Vietnam and fell in love with the country, going so far as to adopt four Vietnamese boys! He explained the signature menu item - Pho, pronounced "fuh." (Imagine Joe sitting there saying, "What the fuh?" I reminded him why he's not in marketing). The Vietnamese typically eat it for breakfast, but I can't see Americans slurping down broth and whole vegetables at 8:00am.

We got two bowls of Vegetarian Pho with Tofu. Each bowl is more than enough for one person. The broth takes hours to prepare, which is one of the main reasons it's so delicious. The flavors steep together for more than a day. Our tofu broth was poured over rice noodles, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower. Pho is served with bean sprouts, hoi sin sauce (sweet sauce), a hot sauce that I can't pronounce, lime, and a couple other flavorful leaves that you're supposed to rub between your fingers and place in the soup to let the flavor seep out. Drop a dollop of the hoi sin sauce into your pho and stir it around until it blends in.

We tackled the soup with chopsticks and managed to splash broth all over our chins. Mmm, sexy. All in good taste! It was delicious, and we had a great view of the foot traffic across the street at Hollins Market.

Baltimore Pho is in a tough spot with really no other major commercial draws, but according to the manager, Pho's owner owns every single property around the Market and has plans to develop it into other retail properties as soon as the economy picks up. In the meantime, keep the place alive and go slurp down some Pho!

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