Second Helpings

Second Helping: Pho Fusion

There is no greater pleasure in life than seeking out new spots and trying anything and everything that the kitchen puts in front of me. But there are also times when I want something cheap and quick -- something that I don't have to think about too much. And since I'm frequently stuffing my face with bacon and butter, I tend to gravitate toward healthy dishes that are delivered quickly and without pretense.

After this weekend, Pho Fusion makes that list.

Looking for a light dinner on Saturday night and unwilling to brave both the construction on Federal and the full experience of a sit-down meal, I headed up to 38th Avenue to give the fast-casual spot, which has a sibling restaurant that opened on Hampden Avenue in 2005, a shot.

A quirky, friendly counter attendant guided me through the Thai curries and Americanized Chinese specialties in addition to a handful of pho and noodle bowls. In the end, I made a meal of Vietnamese egg rolls -- which, delightfully, came with lettuce leaves and plenty of mint for wrapping -- lightly crisped (and not greasy) pot stickers and the Asian chicken salad.

My expectations for that salad weren't high -- they never are when I'm just eating raw vegetables -- but the melange of fresh cabbage, carrots, peanuts and tender shreds of chicken, doused in the same peppery and vinegary dressing that you'd dip your Vietnamese egg rolls in down on Federal, exceeded my expectations: The cheap, healthy and tasty meal admirably captured the Southeast Asian flavors I'd been after.

If it's real Vietnamese food (or real Thai curry) that I want, Pho Fusion is not where I'm going to head. But the restaurant's a good one to have in rotation when places like Chipotle and Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill just aren't doing it for me.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk