On The Menu

Pho Republique (JP's Review)


Category : , ,

A couple of years ago I lived in the South End and I loved it. The South End is my favorite neighborhood in Boston. Parking is very doable, people are very friendly (very unlike the rest of Boston), and there are numerous restaurants and bars that range from extremely hip and trendy to casual. Pho Republique was a spot we would hit to start the night off, or if we were stumbling home along Washington St, to grab a night cap. Last month, after a year in Cambridge, I moved back to South End when we bought our new condo. We were both eager to start being more regulars at places that were only 2 blocks away from our place. Friday night, we started with Pho Republique.

In all the times we've ever come to Pho Republique, it was always for drinks, not food. I've never really looked at the food menu before, other than the fact that I was a little put off by the bowl of Pho listed for $13.50. Pho shouldn't cost more than $6. In Oklahoma, the average price is about $4. In Seattle, it's about $5. In Boston, because Boston loves jacking up prices for everything, the average price is probably a little more than $6. Pho, if you didn't know, is the quintessential dish of Vietnam. (I could write a lot more on pho, and I probably will in another post.) So, I realize that Pho Republique is not trying to be a traditional Vietnamese pho restaurant. It's a hip and trendy Asian fusion joint that is loved by locals and highly liked by reviewers. Since we wanted to start a food blog, we were going to finally eat at Pho Republique.

We walk in and immediately see something we haven't seen before: open seats at the bar. I was stoked. Every other time we've been here, we stood behind the lucky souls who had seats and had to avoid being hit by the servers carrying the large hot bowls of pho to the tables that run along the walls near the bar. We sit down and I ordered my typical starter drink, a Belvedere and tonic. Our bartender Griff is a pro. One of the best I've seen in Boston. He's friendly to everybody, talks to the strangers the same way he does the regulars, and makes the drinks nice and strong. (Side note, the couple on our right were talking sports and didn't know anything about anything! Normally my big mouth would lead me into trouble as I interject the correct sport facts as well as my own opinion trying to make them feel inferior and stupid about not knowing anything. I contained myself tonight...lucky them.) After Abby ordered her drink, some type of mojito I believe, we sat for a while looking over the menu.

The menu had about 7 or 8 appetizers, a few different types of pho (including crispy duck which sounded yummy) and some rice and noodle dishes that had more of a Thai and Chinese feel than Vietnamese. I was really hoping to try something that was traditional Vietnamese done on a different level. Looking at the menu, the only dish that fit that criteria was the pho, and while I might have looked over the price tag this one time, it was way too hot for me to eat a steaming bowl of hot broth and noodles. Abby and I asked Griff what was on the Pu Pu Platter ($24.50). He replied that there are usually 6 or 7 items with a few twists added from time to time. Today's twist was a cold, spicy noodle appetizer. The other items were the Tuna Sashimi Springrolls, the Shrimp Shumai, Gyozas, Pot Stickers, Candied Garlic Spareribs, and Crab Rangoon Eggrolls. It was served with three sauces: soy sauce, garlic say sauce, and plum sauce. In about 5 minutes after we ordered it, a waiter was right behind us asking us to move our drinks so he can place down the Pu Pu Platter. If anything in that bar other than the "33" beer was like Vietnam, this was it...the fast service was incredible. I noticed this same speedy service for our unknowledgeable sports fans sitting next to us as their Tuna Sashimi Springrolls came out a few minutes after they had ordered.

The special item noodles were very good cold lo mein style noodles with a nice liitle kick of spice. The crab rangoon eggrolls were good, but a little heavy. I probably couldn't order a whole plate of them on their own. I really, really enjoyed the tuna sashimi spring rolls, but I have one small complaint: spring rolls are typically not fried. This is a pet peeve of mine. For some reason a lot of people think spring rolls are synonymous with fried eggrolls. I dunno why this is, but I have an idea that the crappy Chinese take out places that people are so used to labeled their eggrolls as spring rolls. Well at most Vietnamese places, the un-fried, wrapped in rice paper rolls are Goi Cuan, and are labeled in English as spring rolls. Cha Gio, the deep fried cousin, is labeled as eggrolls. Nothing major, just my pet peeve. Anyway, back to the appetizers. The size of the tuna in the sashimi roll was incredible. The roll itself was the size of a small burrito. The rice was cooked perfectly and the fried outer shell was a nice complement to the sashimi. Very tasty, with and without the garlic soy sauce. The gyoza was somewhat sweet and was a pleasant surprise. The pot stickers and shumai were very typical of a Dim Sum restaurant, and this is not a complaint at all. Finally, the candied garlic spareribs were very tasty with it's sweet bar-b-que type of sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly, with the bones falling right off.

We didn't come to eat dinner, so we only had the Pu Pu Platter. We came to have a few drinks and relax after a long week. I had another Belvedere and tonic, then I moved onto one of their specialty drinks. Lisa was our bartender now, Griff was talking to some locals on the other end of the bar, and she suggested bourbon on the rocks. I'm not manly enough for that just yet, if ever. What caught my eye was the Lychee Martini. Not extremely original, because a lot of Asian fusion bars are serving something similar, but I really wanted some lychee to snack on. I asked Lisa for extra, and she obliged. The drink itself is gin, lychido, lychee and lime. Was refreshing and sweet, but I could probably only have one for a night.

Now for the big surprise...the bill came. In our heads we were thinking it would be over $95. Roughly $10 for each of our 6 drinks, and $25 for the pu pu platter. It was only $80. Which, while not extremely cheap at all, anytime I can get Belvedere and tonics for under $8, I'm a happy man.

I will eventually try more of the main entrees I promise, but overall, I love this bar. The bartenders are great, the drinks are great, everything about it is great. One of my favorite spots in Boston.

I give it 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Pho Republique on Urbanspoon