Vietnamese national dish shines at Pho Vinh

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

Friendly, helpful service is one of the hallmarks of this family-run Vietnamese restaurant tucked into a modest shopping strip. Never fear if you are a newcomer to this fresh, fragrant cuisine. One of the Duong family will make you feel comfortable in the cheerful red-walled room that boasts an array of framed black-and-white photographs of Saigon on one side and lacquer bowls used as artworks on the other.

The all-day menu focuses on the dishes of their southeast Asian country, starting, it almost goes without saying, with the national dish, pho (fuh), in its many varieties. Brimming bowls of beef broth and noodles accompanied by a plate of accessories: fresh Asian basil looking like a small green bouquet, a plate of beans sprouts to be added to taste along with jalapeno pepper rounds, wedges of lime and Sriracha sauce, as well as chopsticks. For any first-timer to the cuisine, pho is almost a requirement.

There are 11 takes on the pho theme, from one version with eye of round and flank steak and meatballs, to another that adds honeycomb tripe, one with simply round steak and another with brisket and round steak. Those who prefer something other than beef may have chicken noodle or shrimp noodle instead, and yes, it takes manual dexterity to dine Vietnamese style without making a total mess, given the slippery noodles, the easy-to-splash broth, the differing shapes of the meats and the inadequacy of the paper napkins. This is a place that cries out for dishtowel napkins.

In addition to the national dish, of course, there’s much more on the menu, a lot of it more easily brought to the lips without spills. Appetizers include salad rolls in rice paper wrappers and eggrolls and there are a number of dishes for those who prefer the vegetarian direction, starting with vegetable and tofu egg rolls, fried rice with tofu and vegetables, and tofu curry with steamed rice.

Among house specialties are thin slices of grilled pork and shrimp over rice noodles and vegetables, Vietnamese pancake with shrimp and pork, and such curries as chicken with egg noodles or with rice, and a crispy noodle and beef stir-fry at the top of the price scale at $15. Portions are large across the board.

Vietnamese fare is less fiery than Thai and lighter and more delicate than Chinese.

The list of beverages at Pho Vinh includes a number of fresh fruit drinks, a nice touch. A mix of lemonade and iced tea is appealing. Those who prefer hot drinks will find espresso, served in the Vietnamese style with condensed milk.

Pho Vinh

27861 Orchard Lake at 12 Mile, Farmington Hills

Call: (248) 893-7368

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tues.-Sun. Closed Mon.

Prices: Appetizers: $5.25-$8.25, vegetarian dishes $9.45-$10.45, pho $9.45 (small)-$10.45 (large), house specialties $10.25-$15, rice plates $11.45-$11.95, vermicelli bowls $8.95-$10.45.

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: No

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Attached lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers.

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding