Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pho Empire ~ Irving, Texas

Perhaps even more surprising than not having recent Thai updates, is the fact that I have yet to write about any Vietnamese restaurants. And the blog is nearly a year old.

Surprising in the fact that when the wife and I were dating, Vietnamese food was the restaurant of choice. Not just any Vietnamese place, but namely Kim Ba, a wonderful little restaurant in eastern Denver near Aurora. This was Mrs. RJG's first food love. It got to the point that she wouldn't eat anywhere else during our courtship. We had to get married just so we could eat Italian food again. After we married, naturally we continued to frequent Kim Ba for the next few years before moving to NE Tarrant. We would still go almost weekly, even after we moved miles away to The Pinery, far southeast of Denver proper.

So is Pho Empire the second coming of Kim Ba? Hardly, but that doesn't mean it's not good, because it is. We've also frequented a handful of other Vietnamese places in Haltom City and Arlington, and none have matched our old Denver favorite. But there are plenty of good places to talk about - and we'll get to them all eventually.

Vietnamese food is almost the perfect Regular Joe's Guide food: It's plentiful, it's flavorful, it's simple and it's cheap. Not necessarily in that order. Vietnamese cuisine is at the meeting place of Asian and European cooking. The French colonization penetrated the local cuisine, and it provided the perfect marriage of taste. If history had taken a different course, Vietnamese would almost certainly be the primary Asian food of choice amongst Americans, rather than Chinese.

There seems to exist three kinds of Vietnamese restaurants: Fast food, soup kitchens (pho = soup) and nice restaurants. Kim Ba was the latter. And so is Pho Empire.

I first frequented Pho Empire with Ms. JW when we both worked at Software Company You've Actually Heard Of in Las Colinas. In those days they were known by the more modest moniker of Pho Republic. Obviously delusions of grandeur have taken over, as they expanded to one other whopping location in Arlington, and now go by Pho Empire. Look out McDonalds - here's your challenger! cough.

So this was my wife's first encounter with Pho Empire, and it had been at least 4 years since my last visit. They have the usual array of soups and rice dishes and we both opted for the latter. The soup bowls are enormous! I tend to go for lemongrass chicken over a bed of rice and subsequently squeeze Sriracha sauce all over it. The Mrs. will mix it up and on this date she also went for a variation of the lemongrass chicken theme. Good thing she did, as Pho Empire broke the cardinal rule as far as I'm concerned: My dish is not what was advertised. It was a stir fry with everything from the backyard. It didn't say that on the menu! It said chicken, spices and chile's - which is what I wanted. Fortunately Mrs. RJG got more of what I wanted and mine was more to her taste. So it worked out. All dishes come with a beef broth pho, which works perfectly as an appetizer. Despite the ambitions of the name change, the food has taken a step back from what I remembered.

Pho Empire is a nice, and quite large, restaurant with no less than three dining areas. If you've never had Vietnamese food, you will feel very comfortable here.

This location of Pho Empire is located at the SW corner of Belt Line and Northgate, just on the "other side" of DFW airport.

Website: http://www.phoempire.com/

Pho Empire on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

Francis Shivone said...

I had read your Vietnamese restaurant reviews but didn't comment because my 1 or 2 experiences with my daughter at the Haltom City spots left me unsatisfied. It was the Pho-soup version and the place was kind of dingy. Obviously, there are other kinds, as you say, so I need to branch out a little.

Congrats on the 10 for 10 (most visited US spots). That is quite impressive. I'll be mentioning it on the blog at some point.

Watch Foodie Network said...

Great review! Also just found your article "San Diego Tacos Shop, Cal Mex, Taqueria, DFW mini chain" about San Diego Tacos Shop in Richland Hills. Having lived in SoCal for 6 years, I'm also a fan. Might I also recommend another popular "hidden gem" in Irving that could also use a little extra attention, given the state of the economy. Maki Boy specializes in authentic Japanese and Korean cuisine at unbeatable prices. They got a great review in the Dallas Observer, but that was back in 2010.