Review: Pho Tam Vietnamese Restaurant Boise
There’s nothing quite like the clean flavors, simple assemblies, and healthy offerings of Vietnamese food. Vietnamese cuisine just may be my favorite. Pho Tam in Boise, Idaho isn’t perfect, but they do tasty Vietnamese food justice.
Pho Tam Boise: Home Kitchen Atmosphere
I know that many of you out there want to walk into a perfectly clean restaurant with white linens, uppity-up servers, and fancy printed menus. There’s a time and a place for that, but there’s also a time and a place for great hole-in-the wall dining where you feel you are immersed in a family’s kitchen. Pho Tam offers front door entry, where all you see are tables, chairs, and a menu board, but I highly recommend parking in the rear of the building and entering through the back door with tiny little letters spelling out “Pho Tam Enter Here.” This will give you the full Asian family-owned restaurant experience.
Each time I go through the back door, I am greeted with new exciting experiences. Last time it was piles of pork, beef, and chicken waiting to be placed in the cooler. The time before that is was a heaping pile of chicken being deboned. Another time there were piles of fruit and nuts on a little table that the family was snacking on while chopping heaps of vegetables for cooking that day. I love this stuff. It makes me feel like I’m in for quality authentic deliciousness.
The other bonus of entering through the back door is that you get a peak into their humble kitchen. Wok’s, giant pots full of pho broth, pans, grills, fire, water, smoke, grease….it’s a chaotic site of happy happy joy joy. The chef has questionably looked at me more than once while I’ve been standing at the door looking at his world of glory.
Pho Tam Boise: Tasty Pho
Boise is a bit odd in that there are little pho shops everywhere. This town loves their pho and loves their burgers! But I’ll choose the pho every time. Pho Tam does a good job with theirs. The broth is the most savory I’ve had. It has the same components of ginger, onion, star anise, and beef, but these flavors are somehow subdued by an overwhelming umami experience. I’m not sure where it comes from exactly, but I’m glad it’s there. This savory richness would lead me to believe that the broth would be dark in color, but it’s actually quite pale. It tasted to me like it was a mixture of beef broth and chicken broth, but our server promised this was not the case. She did inform us that they do offer Pho Ga (chicken-based pho), which I have not found any where else in Boise. That is cool, and I look forward to trying it on my next visit.
The pho is served piping hot to cook the sliced raw beef in it, and is served with the traditional accompaniments of mung bean sprouts, Thai basil, and sliced jalapenos. But it also comes garnished with some fried garlic bits that were a nice touch. A little Hoisin and Sriracha added to the mix and it was perfect. Mmmmm……
Pho Tam Boise has Delicious Bun
I love a good bowl of pho, but I may equally enjoy a delicious bowl of bun. Bun is a rice noodle salad which is typically served with herbs, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, peanuts, and a meat of some kind (usually pork). It is low calorie health food that deserves 5 star respect. Pho Tam’s was absolutely enormous! It was more than I should be able to eat, but being the glutton I am, I pounded the entire thing.
I ordered the pork and egg roll version. So damn good! The egg rolls were good, all pork with lots of pepper. The grilled pork was a bit salty from its marinade when eaten on its own, but was perfect when eaten with the bland rice noodles. The lightly pickled carrots and daikon were a nice touch. So were the fried onions. Pho Tam gave a good amount of cilantro and mint, but they skimped on the lettuce. That disappointed me a bit, but didn’t ruin my experience. The Nuoc Cham sauce (pour it over the entire thing like a dressing) was exceptional, especially when mixed with a bit of hoisin and sriracha.
Pho Tam Boise Vietnamese Pancake
I was feeling experimental on one of my visits to Pho Tam, and decided I’d give their Banh Xeo Vietnamese Pancake a try. Holy hell I’m glad I did! This thing rocks! The pancake itself is egg… lots of egg, and a touch of some kind of flour mixed in, perhaps rice flour. It creates a very thin, crispy, eggy cruch shell that gets folded around a meat and vegetable stuffing.
The vegetables are mung bean sprouts, jicama, and green onions, which are wok fried in oil with some pork and shrimp. That’s it. It is lightly flavored with salt and maybe a touch of soy, as the Nuoc Cham sauce it is served with is to be your main seasoning agent.
It has a lot of oil from the cooking process though, so it feels a bit heavy. However, they serve it with lettuce, cilantro, and cucumber, which does an amazing job of cutting the grease and making the whole thing dance on your tongue rather than weigh it down. The pancakes are quite large though, so one will be plenty for a single individual.
This is the real deal folks, so order one and let me know what you think.
Pho Tam Boise has Good Vietnamese Sandwiches
I prefer the Vietnamese Sandwich offerings of Baguette Deli Vietnamese Sandwiches, but Pho Tam’s versions are a very close second. Crunchy bread, crisp veggies, and a savory pork with a mild sweet Asian barbeque sauce. That sauce really brought the whole thing home for me. Pretty good, pretty good indeed.
They offered several other varieties, including grilled beef, pork loaf, ham, teriyaki chicken, and even several with egg. I’m going for an egg version next time, as it sounds delicious.
Pho Tam Boise: Fried Rice Disappoints
As good as everything else was, they missed the boat with their fried rice. It wasn’t seasoned well, the shrimp wasn’t cleaned/deveined well, and the rice was mushy and all clumped together. Sad day. I had to add soy sauce and chili paste to make it somewhat enjoyable. Sorry Pho Tam, but you need to go back to the drawing board on this one. I love everything else you’re doing (that I’ve tried at least) though, and I love your open kitchen style family feeling.
The Bald Gourmet reviews Vietnamese Restaurants in Boise, Idaho.