I have lived in Broomfield, worked in Boulder, and visited Denver since January 2013. I moved from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Minneapolis/St. Paul has a very large Vietnamese population, and on top of that, I’ve been dating a Vietnamese immigrant for 2.5 years. So now that we have that information, I feel confident in saying that I know good pho when I taste it.
Since moving, I’ve tried four different pho restaurants. None of them were that great. In fact, the only “good” pho is the pho that I, or we, made in the apartment. Thank goodness her family taught me how to cook it.
Black Pepper Pho (Boulder)
The soup was good as long as it was just called “soup” and not “pho”. It was quite bland and the broth tasted old. It was missing anise, cinnamon, and cloves to be certain. I needed to add bunch of fish sauce at the table too.
Pho Duy (Broomfield)
Again, this broth was missing stronger anise and clove flavors, but it was better than Black Pepper Pho. I would at least call this “pho”, just not that great. The upside of Pho Duy is that the serving size was ginormous. That said, for the amount of pho they give you, they barely give you enough bean sprouts, basil, and lime to even notice they’re in there.
Viet’s Restaurant (Denver)
This was by far the most authentic restaurant of the four that I’ve been to so far. The host and server at least spoke Vietnamese. The employees of all the other restaurants were predominantly white. (That’s already a red flag when looking for good Vietnamese food.)
The pho was really quite decent. Good amount of sprouts, basil, lime, and jalapeno’s. Sadly, the soup wasn’t very hot. Not even hot enough to blanch or tenderize the sprouts. According to my Vietnamese lady friend, the temperature of the broth when served is a very very important custom. If it’s not hot, you should send it back. Almost like ordering a steak medium-rare but getting it well-done, here in America.
Vietnamese Cuisine Young’s Cafe (Fort Collins)
There is no way this should have been the best pho I’ve had in Colorado so far. It’s in a “small town” compared to Boulder and Denver. The dining area was way too nice and way too modern. There were no Asian patrons to be seen, just white people everywhere. They didn’t even use Vietnamese names for the menu items. “Pho” was “Vietnamese beef noodle soup”.
“Oh boy, this is going to be horrible.”
So far, it is the best pho I’ve had in a Colorado restaurant. The broth was a little light on flavor, but much much much better than the other three. It was served hot. It had ample amounts of side veggies.
On top of good pho, we were feeling risky and ordered sweet and sour hot pot too. That wasn’t even offered in all of the Vietnamese restaurants in Minneapolis/St. Paul so I really didn’t have high expectations. Again, we were pleasantly surprised.
Hopefully these reviews help to encourage you to try other pho restaurants before these (except in the case of Young’s Cafe). I will add more restaurants to the list as I experience them.