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Phő Cung

3016 N. Classen Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK
(405) 524-5045

Pho Cuong at NW 30th and Classen Blvd.

Oklahoma City's Asian District has been home to a large number of Vietnamese refugees and their families since they first settled in the United States, and there has been no shortage of Vietnamese food in the area around Classen Boulevard. Some of the more recent restaurants, though, such as Phő Cung, operate on a smaller scale than the early restaurants, and have dropped some of the features previously thought to be necessary such as offering a Chinese menu and mainly serving dishes thought to be more popular with Americans.

The family owned Phő Cung appeals mainly to people who only want authentic Vietnamese food, and whether or not they are familiar with different Vietnamese dishes they at least appreciate good quality. I recommend this restaurant not only to those who have extensive experience with Vietnamese food, but also to those who just want to try things they cannot find in most restaurants. This includes several dishes that are served in other restaurants, but which Phő Cung prepares with an "authentic taste" that is not evident in all of the city's Vietnamese restaurants.

I have had trouble in some of the other smaller Vietnamese restaurants because it seemed that everything had MSG, and even if I wanted to try some of the more authentic dishes they would likely cause unpleasant side effects. It can be a real challenge trying some of the smaller ethnic restaurants, but the only method I know that works is trial and error.

One good sign with Phő Cung is that it serves dishes from different regions of Vietnam (and is one of the few restaurants that even acknowledges that Vietnam has different cooking styles). This makes me think that the restaurant knows enough about Vietnamese cooking to at least prepare it the right way.

On my first visit I wanted to ask a lot of questions before I ordered anything to find out what would best expand my horizons with Vietnamese food and that I would likely enjoy. The waitress called the owner to my table, who said she could not guarantee that anything was MSG-free, but that a relatively small amount was used and that some types of dishes had more MSG than others. Moreover, she seemed to know exactly the type of food I desired, so with her help I felt comfortable placing an order.

Banh tam tom thit nuong
Bnh tam tom thit nuo'ng with coconut sauce on the side

The result of the owner's recommendation was an order of Bnh Tam Tom Thit Nung, a thick vermicelli with grilled pork skin and shrimp in coconut syrup and a special sauce. The coconut sauce made it sound interesting, and was not something I had tried anywhere else. The pork skin was the only part of it about which I was hesitant, but it turned out to be crispy and very good. The coconut syrup was in a cup on the side, so I ended up eating part of the meal with the syrup and part of it without it (both were good). The special sauce was a thin fish sauce similar to the ones served in many Vietnamese restaurants with vermicelli noodle dishes. Grilled onions, nuts, and spices were added to the mix of flavors. The pork skin probably expanded my horizon a little as to what I was willing to try, but it turned out to be very worthwhile. I do not think the result would have been as good in the hands of a less experienced chef, leading me to think that Phő Cung is one of the better places to try new dishes.

Bun bo hue
Bn b Hu

Having recently tried Bn b Hu for the first time, I tried it at Phő Cung for comparison. Wikipedia describes this as a soup with rice noodles that are thicker than the ones used in pho, cooked with beef bones for a long period of time, and flavored with lemongrass and shrimp paste. The menus at Vietnamese restaurants usually describe the meats that are used, including pig's feet and beef shank. Other restaurants include congealed pig blood balls, but Phő Cung did not. This made me think perhaps this version was not as authentic as others I have tried, but apparently the types of "mystery meat" thrown in are optional with each chef. To me the outstanding feature of this soup was the flavor of the broth, and I thought it was outstanding regardless of the meat used (I did not care much for some of the meat that was included, but others were quite good). According to Wikipedia the soup is not always spicy, but this one was on the spicy side (but to me this just made it better). I was quite impressed with this dish that is considered one of Vietnam's favorites, but is rather hard to find in American Vietnamese restaurants.

Pho No. 8
Pho with eye round steak, well done flank, and fat brisket

Phő Cung is probably best known for its Pho, and I could not feel that I had done a complete review of the food without trying it. The decision making process proved to be rather daunting, with quite a few choices of soup available. I figured a good choice would be No. 8 that included eye round steak, well done flank, and fat brisket. I usually like rare steak in pho, but all of the meats in this soup proved to be quite good. The broth was the real highlight, with the flavor of the pho being the best I have tried in OKC. The pho dishes at several other restaurants are so close that I would not advise making a special trip just to try the one here, but for those who want to try the best I would say this is probably it.

Spring rolls
Shredded pork roll, fried egg roll, and fresh spring roll

Most of the time appetizers do not seem to be anything exciting, but the ones at Phő Cung are an example of the fact that even the "ordinary" Vietnamese food here can prove to be better than expected. An order of spring rolls included three different kinds of rolls, all with a unique taste and a unique sauce. If I had to say what made these better than most it would probably be their freshness, but I would not discount the possibility that the sauces were made from a "secret recipe."

I probably have not been to another Vietnamese restaurant in OKC in which everything I tried has been so consistently good. Phő Cung does not have the most extensive menu in the Asian District, but it is a place in which I know that everything is high quality.

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RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 24

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (brewed)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Buffet: No

Most Recent Visit
Jun. 29, 2010

Number of Visits: 3

Best Items
Pho, Banh Tam Tom Thit Nuong

Special Ratings
Pho:
Banh Tam Tom Thit Nuong:
Bun Bo Hue:
Spring Roll:



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