Have you heard? There’s a new pho restaurant at The Loop shopping plaza in Methuen, MA. The Pho City menu includes Vietnamese and Thai food, but as the name implies, pho is the star of the show here.
I grew up eating pho regularly. Yes, a common misconception about me: I consider myself Vietnamese, not Chinese as my last name by marriage would suggest. My mom cooked pho at home so that’s what we ate for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I was very curious to try out Pho City when I heard they were opening this week!
What is Pho?
Pho is a Vietnamese soup consisting of hot broth, rice noodles, various meats and can be garnished with toppings like onions, leafy herbs and beansprouts.
The traditional way of making pho can take 6-12 hours to prepare the broth. I’ve watched both my mom and mother-in-law simmer beef bones in a large pot of water overnight to draw the flavor out. It’s quite a complex soup concoction. The second component of a good broth are the spices and aromatics. Cinnamon and star anise are the main stars here. Cardamom, fennel and charred onion and ginger also play an important role. In Vietnam, some of the best pho places I found were simple no-frills side street restaurants. People there eat pho at any time of day, even in the hottest of summer weather.
Personally, I don’t have time for spending hours in the kitchen. I’m a busy realtor and mom. There are simpler ways of cooking pho on the fly using pre-mixed pho seasoning packets. But you get out what you put in, I suppose. The typical bowl of pho has thinly sliced, raw pieces of beef in it. The hot broth is poured over the beef to cook it. Other meat substitutes include: chicken, beef meatballs, and beef oxtail.
If you’re wondering, pho is pronounced like “F-aww.”
Pho Broth Test @ Pho City
The test of good pho is the broth. If the broth isn’t good, the rest doesn’t matter. I don’t claim to be a pho expert but I’ve had my fair share of it all my life and around the world. I’d say the beef broth at Pho City was decent; crystal clear and savory with a slight hint of sweet. My husband eats a lot of pho too and he really enjoyed it.
Buuut, the broth for the vegetarian pho was not good. It just didn’t taste like regular pho broth. I’m pescatarian by choice, and I made an exception to try the beef broth for you. I would love to know how they made the vegetarian broth; it was not nearly as good as the regular beef pho broth. Perhaps you would enjoy it more than I did. I’ve only enjoyed vegetarian pho at one place and that was in San Diego where vegan cuisine is more widely accepted and popular.
Location & Atmosphere @ Pho City
I do love the convenience of the restaurant location. The Loop offers a lot of restaurants and retail stores like Marshalls, Old Navy, Target, and even a new swimming school for kids under 12 years of age (I signed up my daughters for swim lessons so stay tuned for that review!) Grab dinner and then walk over to Gong Cha for bubble tea or Crumbl for cookie desserts. Finish the day with a movie at AMC, all within a 3 minute walk of each other at the shopping plaza.
Customer Service @ Pho City
Every new restaurant has its kinks to work out and Pho City is no exception. A waiter delivered the wrong bowl of pho to us, but quickly corrected the mistake. I also ended up waiting for a pair of chopsticks for a while. Can’t say I ever ate pho with a fork before this visit. I eat spaghetti with a fork and that’s natural but pho with a fork feels odd! But I give them the benefit of the doubt: Our waitress was helpful, it was a busy Friday and there are hiccups to iron out in the beginning.
Pho City Menu. Click on image for larger view.
I would give Pho City another visit but would try other items. The Pho City menu includes vermicelli dishes and Thai noodles, which I’m looking forward to trying. For the pho taste, convenience and atmosphere, Pho City wins around here. The prices for pho are higher than you would find in Lowell, but that’s expected given the more upscale location. There are a lot more pho options in Lowell and we’ll continue to order our takeout pho from there. For a date night out or when guests are in town, I’d take them to Pho City.
So there you have it… my thoughts on Pho City in Methuen, Massachusetts. Check out the rest of the site for more local hot spots, fun events and real estate info in the Boston North shore and Southern New Hampshire area.
Visit Pho City at:
90 Pleasant Valley St, Methuen, MA 01844