I never mean to go to Pho’Nomenon on rainy days, but it always seems to happen like that. Maybe it’s the fact that soup just makes you feel better when it’s miserable out, or maybe I just hate walking far when it’s wet. Whatever the reason may be, Pho’Nomenon is a master of simplicity and flavor, combining the tastes of southeast Asia and Europe perfectly on white, porcelain dishes.
Walking into Pho’Nomenon, the tone is remarkably subdued. There are some LED lights hung about, plenty of plants, and a unified theme of mahogany, striated tables, and white on black, but nothing that seems to really grab the attention. Soft pop music plays in the background, but unless you’re a die hard Ariana Grande fan that probably won’t impress you too much. The real beauty of Pho’Nomenon comes into play once you’ve sat down. The waiter or waitress comes immediately with water and hot jasmine tea. The browns, blacks, and yellows that surround you become warm and cozy. The giant Buddha face on the wall brings you tranquility. To top it all off, the LED lights brighten up the space in a way that will take you back to freshman year. All of a sudden, you find yourself in a space that feels like home, even if that place is 40 miles away on the turnpike.
Pho’Nomenon, if you were wondering, is named after the famous Vietnamese soup, pho. Pho usually consists of rice noodles, red meat, and herbs that depend on the specific chef. At Pho’Nomenon, you can get pork, beef, chicken, and vegetable pho. As an experience, you should always get pho your first time. It’s worth it, and it’s delicious, especially if it’s rainy out. In addition to their pho, they also serve a host of other dishes. Classics like sesame chicken appear alongside specialties like crispy fried flounder, and there is never a shortage of rice, vegetable, and Bahn Hoi if you think you need something more substantive than soup.
This time around, I got the pleasure of trying their Asian Barbeque Creation and their Grilled Chicken on Rice Vermicelli. The Asia Barbeque Creation was a surprising delight given that it was not what I was expecting at all. Instead of a saucy, heavy barbeque sauce with a side of vegetables, I got a giant mosh of thin chicken slices mixed with broccoli, onion, and peppers in a intense, slightly sweet sauce with a tangy aftertaste. The chicken was prepared excellently; it brought a more salty, spicy flavor to the bite while the vegetables brought a more refreshing, sweet taste. At the end, the rice can be gladly drenched in the leftover puddle of sauce. I recommend you do it.
The other dish, the Grilled Chicken on Rice Vermicelli, confused me in so far as much that Vermicelli did not seem to belong here. Pleasantly, I was again surprised. The chicken was grilled in the Hanoi style, making it tender, moist, and incredibly satisfying to bite into. After the bite, the chicken was lightly savory, and had a slightly sweet aftertaste that counterbalanced the intensity of the grilled exterior. The rice noodles were also perfectly cooked, making them just the right consistency to soak up all the flavors of the chicken and provide a substantive medium for the dish. The sensations of the chicken and seasonings blended perfectly into them, and they provided their own, slight saltiness. By the end of the meal, I had to change my mind. The Vermicelli dishes definitely did belong here.