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Powers' Pho & Grill spot makes a case for your cash 

Film and pho

After combining our experiences with the fact that more than one table was overheard saying exasperatedly that yes, they needed more time, we have come to the Holmesian conclusion that the servers at Pho & Grill are pushy. But considering that on any given Sunday one party is as likely to be trying to catch a movie at the next-door theater as another, it's not hard to understand. It is difficult to make a similar mitigating case for the disinterested air you might encounter — "This will be fine, right?" rhetorically asked our seating host while walking away — but your mileage may vary.

What you can consistently look forward to at this Indochinese café is bowls of pho full of a light brown, zesty broth woven with what tastes like fennel or anise, that's as interested in introducing you to its sugary stratum as it is in making sure you've met the meat underneath. Prices range from $6.95 for a large-looking small, to $8.50 for a mixing-bowl's worth, and includes the usual sides of lime, cilantro, jalapeños, bean sprouts and blooming basil. Thin slices of steak advertised as "rare" failed to ever arrive that way, and some cuts seemed to have spent too long in the refrigerator, but the broth saves all.

Lovely little place to eat it in, too, with its black-and-tan tables between magenta walls. Considering the small, stone-tile bar in the corner — and a steady televised stream of The Doctors notwithstanding — there's just enough character to pull you from the commercial parking lot around it. (Elsewhere, there's more than enough of the plastic, yellow chopsticks to pull anything else; it's like they were left behind by Shrek.)

A plastic to-go cup of Vietnamese coffee ($3.80) may lack the elegant presentation found at fellow Powers Boulevard joint Pho-nomenal, but that's about all the thick, milky, caffeine-bomb is missing. A big, silver pot of loose-leaf green tea ($2) makes for a less lethal alternative.

Starting out, go with the Vietnamese egg rolls ($3.50) or the crab rangoon ($4.50). Both show a deft hand at the fryer, with the former wrapping salty ground pork in bubbly rice-paper that sticks to your teeth, and the latter exhibiting no signs of seafood but the hot cream filling tasting none the worse for it. Supplied sauces, fish-based or otherwise, come off clean and crave-able.

Also delicious, the House Special Rice Plate ($10.50) bears thin cuts of pork, beef, chicken and grilled shrimp that, while a little dry, are licked with enough fiery-sweet char to pair beautifully with the fried-egg-over-white-rice. And the vermicelli-laden búns require a steady dosing of hoisin and chili paste over the skinny cuts of vegetables, but there's no losing between the grilled pork ($9.50) or the egg roll bowls ($9.50), the latter sliced into thumb-sized chunks.

Looking back, we should add one more thing to the aforementioned service note. Sure, your server will probably ask if you're ready to order shortly after handing you your menu; and you may get the feeling you'd rather be seen and not heard. But the restaurant boxes up your to-go food for you. And for anybody who's ever spilled a gallon of hot noodle soup all over the table while trying to fit it into a tiny foam container — and done that more than once — that's just what you like to hear.

bryce@csindy.com

  • Film and pho

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Speaking of Pho & Grill Vietnamese Restaurant, First & Main Town Center

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