9 June, 2010
Pho 9N9 (Durham)Posted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
2945 S Miami Blvd
Soups and Entrees: $6.50–$10.00
This is a nondescript, Vietnamese restaurant in the surprisingly food-packed shopping center on the corner of South Miami Boulevard and TW Alexander Drive. Since I’ve only been to one other Vietnamese spot in the Triangle, I definitely had to give Pho 9N9 a try once I realized it existed. The interior is plain tables and plain walls but with a unique spin on the Asian food joint staple of laminated photographs of their dishes-Pho 9N9’s were framed and hung on the walls in between other paintings. That’s about the extent of the personality they offered for atmosphere, though.
There were a lot of intriguing drinks and desserts on the menu, but they didn’t have the Che Ba Mau, at least, which is red and mung bean jelly in coconut milk. Instead, the avocado shake with tapioca balls was recommended to me, and it was quite luscious.
I always like a good bubble drink, ever since trying my first one near the 99 Ranch Market on the way to the San Jose airport when running friends over the mountains to catch a flight (Santa Cruz, I never stop missing you). I still think they served the best ones, too, but that’s nostalgia for you. This avocado bubble shake was very thick and a great pairing for the spicy food to come. We won’t discuss calories involved, mmkay?
We split a chicken banh mi sandwich to start with.
I’ve only had banh mi a couple other times, so I’m not a great judge of them, but this one was a little short on vegetables. The ones that were there, though—carrots, onions, and hot peppers—were lightly pickled and scrumptious. The bread was buttery and nearly melted in my mouth without coming across as overly greasy like some burger buns in the area. The spicy barbecue chicken was really great. I definitely recommend the banh mi.
The seafood pho I ordered was much less impressive, though perfectly edible.
Portion sizes first: I ordered the small, but I’m not sure that’s what I got. If it was a small then smalls at Pho 9N9 are huge! The accompanying bean sprouts, basil, and lime all made their way into my soup bowl and were perfectly fresh. The broth was rather plain, but that’s what sriracha and hoisin at the table are for, right? Doctored up, I enjoyed the broth. The seafood, though, wasn’t an exciting array. There were five or six medium-sized, well-cooked shrimp, but the rest was very chewy calamari and surimi-style pollack—you know, the stuff imitation crab is made from. I don’t mind imitation crab—it is seafood—but I was hoping for some nice chunks or balls of fish flesh. Reviews of Pho 9N9 reveal that if you want pho, ordering rare steak might be your best bet. As I’m never ordering rare steak, I doubt I’d opt for the pho again. But maybe the dry vermicelli dishes . . .
My husband had the pork vermicelli, and he declared it OK, which is about as high of praise as Mr. Gourmez declares. Translated that means that he didn’t dislike it.
So while I wasn’t blown away by Pho 9N9, I’m definitely willing to go there again to try their other offerings when Vietnamese flavors ask for my taste buds’ attention. There were some great-sounding specialties like catfish clay pots or lotus leaf salads that may be worth a whirl. Somehow I didn’t notice them on the back page of the menu, or I probably would have tried them instead of the pho anyhow.