The nice weather on Friday inspired us to hop in the car and drive over to Coolidge Corner on Saturday — for a little walk and to grab some lunch. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually check the current weather before we left… and it was quite chilly out (like 38 degrees)… so needless to say, the lack of coat, combined with the flip-flops we were all wearing — made us scratch our walk and just select a restaurant close to where we parked.
We’d been there several times before, but I have never written about it… so we opted for Pho Lemongrass, a popular Vietnamese restaurant that has stood the test of time. The food and ingredients are always fresh, the dishes are consistently good, the service is good and the casual atmosphere is perfect to grab a quick lunch with the kids, but would also bode well for a casual date night.
We started our lunch with some Fresh Summer Rolls — A delicate rice paper rolled around shrimp, rice, noodles, lettuce & Asian basil and served chilled with peanut sauce ($4.95). You can also opt for chicken, pork, grilled steak or tofu filling… and they come standard with a shrimp and pork combo. These delicate and low fat rolls are exactly as they are described — fresh. The Peanut Sauce is divine and would serve as an appetizer in it’s own… when consumed with nothing but a spoon.
Next to arrive were the accompaniments for my pho — some bean sprouts, Thai basil and lime. We also were given a selection of hot sauces and a sweet and sour type of chutney.
For my lunch, I got the Pho Salmon— made with chicken stock, rice noodles, cilantro and green onions ($8.25). This light but fillng soup, was perfectly seasoned and was chock full of noodles, broth and salmon. I really loved the broth and I added some additional spice to it with the Sriracha hot chile sauce. While the salmon was very fresh and The Husband loved it… I decided to eat around it. It’s not that it tasted bad… I think the fact that it was “boiled” turned me off a bit. I’m not a fan of any boiled meat. I can do poached… but boiled is another story.
The boy wanted “noodles” and being the picky eater that he is… I was careful to select a dish that wouldn’t be too complex or have too many “yucky” things in it. I went with the Vietnamese Noodle Salad — assorted greens topped with noodles and chicken in a Vietnamese peanut vinaigrette and topped with roasted peanuts ($.7.95). I asked for the dish without the chicken though… knowing that would scare the boy off.
This dish was great. It was served cold (and I think I would have liked it even better warm or room temp) and contained red and green bell peppers, sliced bamboo shoots and carrots. The dressing was delicious and the 4-yo ate it — which says a lot!
Last but not least, the Husband went with the Grilled Sugar Cane Shrimp Bun ($8.95). Bun is a traditional dish of rice vermicilli, topped with meat, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, scallions and roasted peanuts. The dish is served with Nước chấm and/or peanut sauce. This is actually one of my favorite dishes and my usual “go to” when I dine at Pho Lemongrass or any other Vietnamese restaurant.
Depending on whether or not you add the peanut sauce, this dish can be quite light. The Nuoc Cham sauce is very light and the ingredients are all steamed or raw. The only exception is the meat… in this case, a shrimp paste is fried on a sugar cane skewer. The paste is very remiscent to the Chinese shrimp toast filling. I love it and so did the Husband, who was nice enough to share a piece of shrimp with me and also a sugar cane skewer for both me and boy — sweet and saturated in the fat from the oil and the shrimp paste… Mmmm….
If you love Vietnamese food and you have yet to visit Pho Lemongrass — it’s definitely worth a try. They have won several “Best of Boston” awards over the years and still continue to do so… which I take as a clear sign that the quality of their food and service has not changed over the years. The place is always crowded… but not so much that you can’t get a table for lunch on the weekend. A favorite stand-by for us when we’re hankering some fresh Asian food that won’t leave us feeling bloated and fat when we’re done eating.