Pho Hoa has a variety of bottled beer from around the Pacific Rim, wines calculated to match the cuisine, and even a few cocktails. We went with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, "Sole Beach" reserve 2010 ($6/glass; $19/bottle). There's not a lot of restaurant wine out there under $20 a bottle these days, and while this one won't win any gold medals, it stood up well to much of the food.
As for desserts, you won't regret flan ($2.95), here made quite rich and a little stiff. Fried banana ($4.95) is one of the best versions around, each sweet, melting fruit wrapped in a crisp egg-roll skin to make a little pillow, and with two scoops of Christina's green-tea ice cream added on. The dry finish is fascinating. Try to be a good sport about things like the special longan dessert ($3.50), which was heavily candied in syrup, with a few similarly treated ginkgo nuts and jujubes.
With 150 seats, Pho Hoa conveys a feeling of an immigrant group that has genuinely arrived. It is heavy on the decorations, with granite-look table tops, an ornate fake-tin ceiling, low lights, and a lovely saltwater aquarium. Service was quite good at an early weeknight visit, and the scattered crowd was as diverse as Boston's largest neighborhood.
Now there is just the matter of the hué-style lemongrass soup "bun bo," the myriad creative variants, and the competing soup palace next door. Fee, fi, pho, fum — hungry or not, here I come.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHO HOA |1370 DORCHESTER AVENUE, DORCHESTER | 617.287.9746 | PHOHOARESTAURANT.COM | OPEN MONDAY–FRIDAY, 9 AM–11 PM; SATURDAY, 8 AM–11 PM; AND SUNDAY, 8 AM–10 PM | AE, DI, MC, VI | FULL BAR | SIDEWALK-LEVEL ACCESS | NO VALET PARKING