It wasn’t the promise of a tasty meal that drew me into Pho Kitchen Bar & Grill on a recent Saturday afternoon. Rather, it was the grand opening banner above the entrance that promised 20 percent off and the audible growls from my stomach after a six-hour hike. That said, having spent more than a year in Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia enjoying the robust, aromatic broths Southeast Asia is known for, I didn’t have high hopes for what this Boulder eatery had to offer.
It took just one slurp of Pho Kitchen’s rich broth prove me wrong. It was just as good—dare I say better—than the fare I’d sampled in Asia.
That was owner Hoa Nguyen’s intention when he opened the eatery in February. A former nail salon owner originally from Vietnam, he decided to switch to the restaurant business after watching this prime location (on Baseline Road near the University of Colorado at Boulder) sit empty since 2015. The idea, according to his daughter and the restaurant’s manager, Jenny Nguyen, was to bring the flavors of their home to Colorado. “Boulder likes to think of itself as pretty diverse, but the flavors like what we’d get in Vietnam weren’t there,” she says.
Those flavors are on fully display in their pho. The broth reveals layer upon layer of complexity with each spoonful, with just a hint of sweetness that comes from boiling beef bones overnight. “Some people aren’t used to [the sweetness],” Jenny says, “and a lot of places will use powdered stock that makes the broth saltier.” Not Pho Kitchen. If Jenny and Hoa run out of broth, that’s it for the day—they won’t serve anything that hasn’t simmered overnight.
Meat for the pho is prepared with equal care. The fatty brisket in my Pho Tai Gau fell to pieces the second it hit my tongue, while the raw beef offered a burst of tang, a result of marinating in lime juice and spices. The grilled beef in the Pho Thit Nuong displayed a perfect mix of sweet and savory, so tender that it hardly needed chewing.
“Our goal was to make a pho you didn’t have to add anything to,” Jenny tells me. While I opted to enhance my bowl with a spoonful of chile sauce and a handful of Thai basil, the pho needed nothing more.
With its sleek décor and a liquor license in the works, Pho Kitchen is a more modern take on the traditional-style pho restaurants that populate Boulder. For non-pho eaters, there’s an extensive menu that shows off the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine, which has been influenced by the Chinese, Thai, French, and Spanish. (Case in point: Some days, there’s a special flan on the dessert menu).
Despite Pho Kitchen’s diverse offerings, I haven’t been able to pry myself away from its namesake soup. I’ve been back many times since that first visit, and I’m slowly working my way through the 11 different pho offerings. So far, I’m sticking with my initial assessment: It’s an exceptional addition to the Front Range pho scene.
2900 Baseline Rd, Boulder, 303-872-3903