For the past year, I've been eating my way up and down Havana Street in Aurora. With that mission accomplished, I'm moving on to more suburban surroundings; I'll be tackling the diverse eats and drinks of Arapahoe Road from Parker Road to Broadway. Here's the next stop in what promises to be a long but tasty adventure.
An invitation to grab a steaming bowl of noodle soup in the middle of an arid Colorado summer probably receives more passes than not. But Pho Vy makes it easy for customers to enjoy Vietnamese cuisine mid-summer by also offering rice and noodle bowls with grilled meats and crisp vegetable-based appetizers you can eat without getting heatstroke.
Take the banh xeo ($11.95). Named after the sizzle they make when batter hits hot pan, these Vietnamese pancakes typically consist of rice flour, coconut milk, water, green onion and turmeric powder. Once the batter for the crepe-like street food is poured into the wok, pork belly and shrimp are added to the pan so that some of the meat embeds in the batter as it cooks. Served folded over the meat-and-veggie filling, the banh xeo comes out looking like a giant omelet, though not a single egg is included in the traditional recipe. While it looks like a heavy meal at first, the pork-studded pancake is light and thin. The fish sauce accompanying my appetizer was bright and refreshing with lime juice, and the porous outer layer of the pancake immediately absorbed all the flavors. Julienned carrot and daikon added crunch when rolled up with the banh xeo in a lettuce-and-cilantro "burrito."
Also great choices on a hot day are the noodle and rice bowl offerings. An assortment of savory grilled meats such as steak, chicken and pork are served alongside rice or cool vermicelli noodles, fish sauce and a perfectly bronzed egg roll.
If, on the rare occasion that rain showers bring relief from the heat, or if you don’t mind sweating a little to cool off, bun bo Hue is a good way to switch it up from the typical pho order. In fact, the mild and sweet lemongrass broth, with smoky hot chili oil pooling on top, makes this soup surprisingly appropriate for the summer season. Sliced brisket, aromatic cilantro and colorful green onions swim in the bowl, intermingled with noodles that are fatter than pho noodles but apparently still made with rice, since the soup is listed as one of many gluten-free meal options. I noticed that the broth’s spicy and sweet lemongrass flavor didn’t taste at all like the base in my kid’s meatball pho, which indicates that the kitchen creates separate broths for each soup (as one would hope).
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At Pho Vy, everything is made to order in the open kitchen in front of the restaurant. You can even hear the “order up” bell repeatedly ringing throughout your meal as the cooks confidently turn out each plate and bowl while hungry diners stare in their direction. Without even having to ask, a waiter offered to re-seat us in a booth away from the windows, which, despite the best effort of the air conditioning, were radiating heat onto the tables near them.
On top of the friendly and accommodating staff, made-to-order foods and a nothing-to-hide kitchen, the restaurant states on its website that organic meats and vegetables are used in all of its dishes. A large selection of boba drinks, smoothies, Thai iced tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade are offered and are invigorating accompaniments to any Vietnamese meal in this particularly blazing Colorado summer. The owner’s goal, as the stated on the website, is not to offer Americanized versions of Vietnamese food, but to “introduce you to Vietnamese people, culture and food and hope that you like it" — a gutsy and respectable stance to take when you open up shop in the middle of suburbia. Judging from the number of people in the restaurant on an idle Monday night, it seems that Pho Vy has accomplished that goal — soup weather or not.
Pho Vy is located at 6770 South Cornerstar Way in Aurora and is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 303-699-1668 for takeout orders, or order online on the restaurant's website.