New Vietnamese additions a hit at Thai Chili


WHAT: Thai Chili & Pho.

WHERE: 2536 Rimrock Ave., Suite 700.

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; lunch specials until 3 p.m.

CONTACT: 242-3299.

COST: Most lunch specials are about $8; dinners under $15.

The moment I saw “Pho” go up on the sign at Thai Chili, I knew I wouldn’t be able to last very long before going to sample some.

The soup, often called the national dish of Vietnam, and several other specialties of the Southeast Asian nation were added to the menu in April. A new Vietnamese chef at Thai Chili spent weeks creating the menu.

It’s always risky trying food or restaurants before they’ve had awhile to work out the kinks. But my impatience won out, so several coworkers and I stopped in for lunch last week.

Pho (pronounced “fa”) is a steaming hot bowl of broth, meat and vermicelli-style rice noodles. Served on the side is a plate of bean sprouts, sweet basil, lime wedges, sliced hot peppers and sometimes mint leaves. The fixings are intended to go in your soup.

Three of us ordered pho: chicken, beef with lemongrass and dac biet, which is a combination.

A little confusion ensued when I got the beef that someone else ordered, and she got the combination that I ordered. She doesn’t have the I’ll Try Anything Once gene, so she was a little put off by the assortment of meats in the combo pho, including brisket, tendon and tripe.

Unless you’re a really adventurous eater, I would suggest the straight beef, chicken or meatball pho. All are very approachable to American palates.

One of the selections, pho tai, is served with thinly sliced beef on the side, which cooks when added to the hot soup, much like fondue.

The pho came in very large bowls filled with broth made from bones and flavored with sweet onions and star anise.

The bowls are huge and seemingly bottomless. This is good because you’ll be taking some home, and it tastes even better the next day.

We loved the plate of fresh ingredients that give the dish an added layer of texture and complexity.

Our experience ended with two thumbs up and one thumb down. She with the down-turned thumb did say she’d like to try it again, only next time with no surprises.

If you’re not in the mood for soup (the temperature outside is climbing close to 70 degrees on some days), there is another Vietnamese dish at Thai Chili & Pho that I love.

After the lunch, I went back to try one more thing: the combination noodle bowl.

Again, the noodle is a thin rice noodle, but that’s not the best part. Grilled chicken, beef, shrimp, bite-sized pieces of egg roll and crushed nuts are served on top. For your side veggies, they add lettuce, cilantro, blanched carrots, raw bean sprouts and pickled radish.

This dish illustrates what I like most about Vietnamese cuisine. The meat is well seasoned and the vegetables are lightly cooked, at best, and still crunchy.

So, there’s no need for any heavy sauces, or sauces at all. It is a flavor unto itself.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Pablo’s Pizza in Fruita is celebrating its fifth anniversary this weekend with a concert co-sponsored by the Feedlot.

Three bands — Lisa Lingo, Dem Bones and Drop Top Lincoln — will perform a free concert at 6 p.m. Saturday, Apirl 16, at Kokopelli Plaza.

Happy hour at Pablo’s is from 4–6 p.m. every day and reviews on recommend the veggie pies.

AND THE WINNER IS: The people’s choice award at last week’s A La Mode competition went to Bin 707 for their chocolate caramel pretzel pie, a creation of owner Josh Niernberg.

QUOTE: “Veal is very young beef and, like a very young girlfriend, it’s cute but boring and expensive.” — P.J. O’Rourke

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734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050; M-F 8:00 - 5:00
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