For the uninitiated, pho (a traditional Vietnamese soup pronounced “fuh”) can be daunting, something that’s exacerbated by poorly translated menus and indifferent servers. Not so at Pho Real, a four-month-old spot in Littleton. On a recent visit, a friend and I—not pho virgins, but not experts, either—wandered into the clean, contemporary space expecting to order our usual no-fuss bowls with chicken. (Gà, the Vietnamese word for “chicken,” is the one bit of pho lingo I’ve made a point to memorize.)
To our delight, however, we discovered that Pho Real keeps it, ahem, real by removing any guesswork. Both the Vietnamese name and the English translation are listed for each dish on the clearly organized, grammatically polished menu, so the less adventurous can safely opt for pho chín (well-done brisket) over pho tái (rare eye of steak). Thorough descriptions of the 10 small plates—and our server’s patient, knowledgeable answers—led us to order the fresh, brightly flavored goi cuon (spring rolls wrapped in soft rice paper) to start.
Then we branched out by ordering the brisket pho, confidently following further directions on the menu once we got our long-simmered, fragrant soup: “Always add lime to your broth,” “Bean sprouts add texture,” and “Sriracha like it’s hot.” We also shared one of Pho Real’s handful of clearly labeled vegetarian options: the bún chay, a cold noodle bowl with crisp mixed veggies and fried tofu.
As we packed up considerable leftovers, we reveled in the ease of our experience, as compared to the anxiety we’d faced at other eateries (no matter how good the food may have been). In addition to being inviting, Pho Real is a low-investment way (a small bowl runs just $6.95) to relax and enjoy the classic comfort food—making it a sure bet for novices and practiced foodies alike.
Goi Cuon/Spring Rolls, $4.95
Pho Chín/Well-Done Brisket (medium), $7.95
Pho Tái/Rare Eye of Steak (medium), $7.95
Bún Chay/Steamed Vegetables Noodle Bowl, $9.25
Com Chiên Gà/Chicken Fried Rice, $9.25