Pho Vi Hoa: Good for flu season (or any season)

Oct. 28, 2011, 12:53 a.m.
Pho Vi Hoa: Good for flu season (or any season)
Courtesy of MCT

Flu season is upon us. Eight people had hacking coughs in my econ lecture on Monday. As a precautionary measure, the girls in my sorority house have scaled back on grabbing big handfuls of leftover macaroni and cheese from the fridge with their bare hands after nights out on the Row. And I got an urgent, sniffy phone call this morning from a friend asking me to get her Zicam from the store (aside: you’ve got to be really sick to buy a homeopathic “medicine” that the FDA has determined results in permanent losses to the user’s sense of smell).

There’s only one cool thing about getting the flu in my book, and that’s the excuse to throw on sweatpants and drive to Pho Via Hoa in Mountain View for cheap, bucket-sized portions of pho.

So what exactly is pho? Put simply, it’s a traditional Vietnamese noodle dish. Think chicken noodle soup, but Asian and without the gross slimy sheen the canned Campbell’s stuff always has all over the noodles. Pho varies across different regions in Vietnam, but it’s basically a big bowl of stock-based broth mixed in with thin rice noodles and topped with meat (usually beef, maybe chicken), bean sprouts, chili peppers, cilantro, raw onions, basil and lime. For the flu-afflicted, it’s enough of a meal to keep your feverish limbs from collapsing under you, but still not too heavy. Plus, it’s sinus-clearing and (kind of) has vegetables involved. In short, pho is God’s answer to sick days. We are all deeply indebted to the people of Vietnam for bringing it to the United States.

But whether stricken by flu or not, Pho Vi Hoa is one of my go-to places for a number of reasons. The cavernous space, lit by halogen and filled with polyester, bright green banquettes isn’t exactly glamorous–or really ambient at all. Still, it’s nice enough to take both your hardcore foodie friends and your lame friends who don’t think every meal should be a dramatic reenactment of an episode of “No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain.”

The service itself is friendly, fast and efficient, which is another plus. Most of my favorite places to eat around campus apparently make hiring decisions based on who can do the best Sue Sylvester impersonation, so being able to get really great, cheap food without having feel like Rachel Barry wearing a grape-slushy-stained argyle sweater after a particularly bad breakup with Finn (apparently “Glee” metaphors can extend forever, even in a restaurant review) is a major point in Pho Vi Hoa’s favor.

The pho itself is the best I’ve had in the Bay Area. Fly-by-night pho places often dish out vats of noodles in broth that tastes like just hot water–or worse, like the stuff you find in Cup of Noodles. At Pho Vi Hoa, the broth is flavorful and complex; it sets the perfect backdrop to the soup’s ingredients, which are all made with obviously fresh, high-quality ingredients.  $6.85 for a small bowl and $7.85 for a large (which is almost inappropriately large, for the record) means you almost can’t afford not to eat at Pho Vi Hoa.

And lest you get sick of pho, the restaurant also has a great lineup of other healthy Vietnamese options. I’m especially partial to the creatively named “C-03,” which is a plate of perfectly grilled chicken, steamed rice, assorted vegetables, a truly excellent dipping sauce (not sure what’s in it, just tastes good) and a small cup of piping hot chicken broth. At only $8.20, it’s more than enough food for one person. The fried egg rolls ($2.00) and homemade lemonade ($2.75) are also not to be missed.

Pho Vi Hoa is the real deal–a perfect option just 10 minutes from campus for flu season and beyond.

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