Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pho 77: New Pho For My Old Cold

Still sick from the week prior with clogged head and raspy throat, I returned for more Pho to a spot I saw while leaving Pho Duy II last week. My head was swimming with congestion and dazed from being up the last three nights coughing. I ordered to go, and as I sat to wait for my broth, I quickly became entranced by the ambient music selection of a single, relaxing pan flute that would be more at home in a dimly lit massage parlor. I simultaneously became transfixed on the giant aquarium where two lonely little orange fish were doing laps around the faux coral seascape. My eyes then wandered up to the muted TV where that annoying Family Feud host-- you know, Elaine's boss from Seinfeld, J Peterman-- seemed to dance in sync to the flute soundtrack as he moved his way down the row of star struck family members. For a surreal moment the music seemed to be part of the game show itself, but in my semi-dazed state this all seemed perfectly normal. So it seemed equally unremarkable when a polite server brought me a glass of ice water with a slice of lemon.

I sipped the water and came crashing back down to reality. Then I took my bearings and assessed the situation: I am waiting for $5 take out on North Peoria on a Wednesday night and someone just gave me ice water with a slice of lemon in clean glassware. Without asking. I fingered through my bag to see if maybe in haste I had taken a swig of my coveted Codeine-laced cough syrup, which was going to promise me my first deep sleep in days. No, it was sealed. As I sipped the cold water I smiled: so far so good at Pho 77, Denver's newest pho.

Pho 77 has only been here for about a month in a strip mall just south of Pho Duy II. The newness is probably why besides being served unsolicited ice water with lemon, the server also rushed over to open the door as I stumbled off to my car. I hope that service lasts as the restaurant grows--after the owners and staff have been working non-stop for months on end. There is hope, as the hostess (and daughter of the owner) is extremely friendly and seems to keep the place running. Also, the lettering on the doorway solicits your recommendations for your future visits:

I over Hoisin'd my first Pho there. It pretty much ruined it for me. I also got meatball pho, which I never do, so maybe that was part of it. The meatballs were gray and spongy-- but to be fair to Pho 77, they look like that at every pho place I've been. Apparently these started off as beef (I know, because I asked) but what ended up in my bowl was something more rubbery and less meat-like than any beef I have ever known.

My wife's chicken pho, on the other hand, was filled with big chunks of sliced breast. And it was tender. She also didn't mess up her broth like I did, and I will admit that I sorely coveted her pho that night, even though I don't really like chicken pho all that much. But in spite my best efforts of putting on a sad, sickly face to get her to switch with me, nothing could even get her to try my meat-sponge mess of a pho.

Even though it was my fault for messing up my broth, I may have never returned to Pho 77 if it weren't for me writing this blog. I would have instead gone back to an old standby the next time I craved pho. But I don't like to talk bad about restaurants very often, so I always try and give them a second chance if I am going to write about them-- especially new ones like this that are trying very hard to do things right. The daughter of the owner, who plays hostess at night, does so after working a full day at a bank down the street. You would never know in her attitude or demeanor that she has been working 15 hour days the entire week. I admire that determination. Especially when on top of it she is genuinely friendly, attentive and helpful. So I gave Pho 77 another chance.

On returning I was also as of healthy and sound a mind as I get, which is certainly relative and maybe not saying much, but I was at least no longer sleep deprived and half-crazed with congestion. I also ordered my old standby: raw beef. The large portion was huge and there was beef aplenty. The broth is sweeter than others that I have had, and I was told by the daughter/ hostess that this is typical for Northern Vietnamese pho, where her and her family are from, versus Southern Vietnamese pho, which has a saltier broth. Either way, it has a good flavor, and this time I skipped the Hoisin entirely, opting for just hot and fish sauce along with my herbs. It was all really quite good.

My wife was pho'd out and ordered from the right side of the menu. Here there are a handful of noodle, rice, spring and egg roll dishes. She got a Vietnamese grilled pork dish with rice. It was tasty, and it is nice to have a little variety for us, because I can eat pho anytime, whereas she likes to have other things from time to time. Please with her selection, she is now happy to sate my pho cravings anytime if she can order something like that instead.

I'm glad I went back. I like the pho and I really like the place. I hope that lost in this wasteland of North Aurora it will find a way to drive more business and eventually survive. It's not a great location to begin with, and tucked into the corner of a strip mall, it is hard to find even when you are looking for it. But now that I know where it is, I will actually probably stop here instead of driving two more blocks to Pho Duy II when going for my North Aurora pho.

3113 N. Peoria. Aurora. 303-366-0904
Pho 77 on Urbanspoon

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