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First look: Pho Market opens on Federal

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There's always room for more pho on Federal, no? That's the hope of Chinh Nguyen, his fiancée Quynh Nguyen and Thuy Le (owner of Chez Thuy in Boulder), who just opened Pho Market in the original Pho 95 strip-mall space at 1002 South Federal Boulevard. And you'll never recognize the quarters, which expose a bright and airy interior that's all shiny and new.

See also: Pho Market Vietnamese restaurant opening on Pho Avenue, otherwise known as Federal

"We were definitely going for a contemporary look, and we pretty much gutted the space and replaced everything old with everything new," says Chinh, who, coincidentally, is best friends with Aaron Le, the owner of Pho 95, which boasts a location at the Streets at SouthGlenn and a second, more recent store at 1401 South Federal Boulevard. The two went to high school together, and Le, who's one of the most affable front-of-house faces in Denver, clearly taught Chinh, who swapped a career in optometry for a restaurant career, a thing or two about the hospitality business. Like Le, Chinh is a natural host, touching every table and effortlessly conversing with every type of guest, which he was doing yesterday when I stopped in for lunch.

I'd already decided on pho, but the menu encompasses so much more: lime-leaf fish cakes; grilled green mussels; rice-noodle bowls; wok-tossed noodle dishes; papaya salad; "broken rice" dishes and noodle soups and stews, including roasted duck and egg-noodle soup and spicy beef noodle and blood pudding soup. And according to Chinh, the current menu, which already spans five pages, is an abbreviated version that will eventually just be dedicated to lunch service. "In April, we're planning to roll out a separate dinner menu with traditional Vietnamese dishes -- things like hot pot, clay pot and whole fish," says Chinh, adding, too, that there's a "secret" menu that trumpets items like grilled duck wrapped in basil leaves and a market salad with spicy sprouts, vegetables, veal and star fruit.

The fifty-seat space, which reveals a partially open kitchen -- "We want people to see that we're very committed to keeping everything clean," stresses Chinh -- is dressed with custom-made banquettes, welded mirrors, walls bordered with tiled glass, cherry-red light fixtures and glass-topped tables, and the small foyer, brightly muraled with fish and foliage, will soon have a waterfall, as well. "I think this is one of the best decorated Vietnamese restaurants in Denver," says Chinh. And one of the few, too, that pours beer and wine, although the wine list is still a work in progress.

Pho Market, which also specializes in catering, is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Flip the pages for a first look at the food and the space.

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