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The Dish: Pho 98

Explore the extraordinary flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.

As someone who delights in a good bowl of pho, I feel fortunate to live in Northern Virginia where shops selling the Vietnamese noodle soup are plentiful.

It's pronounced more like “fuh” than the “foe” commonly said by Westerners, so I'm sorry if those lunch time proclamations and status updates in the vein of "pho real!" just don't seem as clever now. Eaten with chopsticks and a big spoon, the dish is served piping hot in a large bowl with a plate of fresh garnish on the side for the diner to add in their preferred quantities.

For several years I have been having lunch at - a family-friendly Vietnamese restaurant in Chantilly with contemporary decor and a super clean appearance.  I recently enjoyed a weekend dinner, starting with a pair of summer rolls ($3.50) that contained shrimp, a slice of pork, rice vermicelli noodles, lettuce, sprouts and herbs. The ingredients tasted fresh and the rolls were served with a thick and very sweet peanut dipping sauce.

I ordered pho ($7.98) with a full assortment of traditional Vietnamese meats (brisket, flank steak, fat brisket, soft tendon, bible tripe and meatballs). If a tamer rendition is more your style you can select any cuts of meat you like, or even order a chicken or seafood variety. The scallion laden broth is lighter than some places, but flavorful, and it came with a generous amount of garnish including culantro (extra points), sprouts, basil, jalapeno pepper and lime. I found the meat to be tender and in a fair quantity atop the tangle of rice noodles. The ubiquitous Sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, chili sauce and fish sauce are all available on the table, allowing you to doctor your meal to your liking.

I also ordered bun ($8.58) - a cool and light dish with crunchy fresh flavor that is perfect for summer. It consisted of cold vermicelli noodles topped with chopped lettuce, sprouts, shredded carrot and radish, cucumber, basil and chopped peanut. You have a choice of meat, the only hot ingredient in this dish, and I chose grilled beef that had been marinated and was served on skewers. A bowl of tangy sauce - a key ingredient of which is fish sauce - is served on the side. Once this liquid is poured over the entire dish you are ready to mix the contents and enjoy a lovely balance of flavors and textures.

To finish the meal, I couldn’t pass up a Vietnamese iced coffee ($3.50) - a bold chicory infused brew mixed with thick sweetened condensed milk. Some assembly is required, as is the case in most Vietnamese restaurants I have been to, and I wouldn't have it any other way! You are brought a glass of ice and coffee cup topped with an individual drip filter. Once the coffee is brewed you simply stir (the sweetened condensed milk is already in the bottom of the cup) and pour over the ice. It is a richly sweet and decadent coffee drink that makes a great after-dinner treat.

Pho 98 is located near the intersection of Route 50 and Route 28 interchange, across from the Avion Business Park. They are open Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. and on Sunday 9:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. Call 703-378-7958 to confirm information.

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