This is one in an occasional series about eating establishments in neighborhoods near Tufts’ three campuses. Have a suggestion for a place for our roving diners to explore? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Dish on Foursquare.
Pho Pasteur must be a familiar name to longtime Boston-area residents. The place seems to have been around for decades and was a pioneer in introducing Vietnamese cuisine to locals back in the day. Given its proximity to Tufts’ downtown campus, a check-in at the mother ship seemed overdue. (Anyone else besides me confess to having that head-scratching moment guessing what the connection could possibly be to Louis Pasteur?)
First impressions count for a lot, so immediate points for setting the tone: a warm but decorous welcoming staff, clean if brilliantly lit surroundings and some great-smelling food. No wonder this place is packed. A quick peek into other Vietnamese restaurants in the neighborhood revealed nothing near this popularity.
Take time to peruse the menu. Many of the dishes are frequently encountered in Vietnamese cuisine, but detailed scrutiny will uncover some hidden surprises. I applaud the unapologetic identification of imitation crabmeat where it is featured as an ingredient. The unanticipated appearance of those pre-formed sticks garishly striped an unnatural red is a surefire way to put me off my feed.
An obligatory order of fresh spring rolls did not disappoint. The accompanying peanut sauce wasn’t as thick as some but tasted fresh and homemade. As a departure from the traditional pho preparation, the menu category Special Soup offered an alternative. Wouldn’t I be remiss in my responsibilities if I failed to order the spicy beef lemongrass soup with vermicelli? The steaming bowl that arrived was all that could be hoped for: fiery, aromatic, quite possibly habit-forming.
When dining with a group, there’s normally a common agreement at work in some vegetables. We settled on the Chinese broccoli with garlic and oyster sauce. A slightly sweet sauce bathed the crunchy but tender stalks. Obviously prepared with care, but perhaps best to consume before the sauce cools into something less appetizing.
Additional consensus with my tablemates zeroed in on spicy jumbo shrimp in their shells, with a special house sauce. The crustaceans were perfectly grilled, aswim in a pale gravy that looked more insipid than it tasted. They would have gone down very easily if the shelling didn’t slow us down. That and the minefield of unannounced green peppers.
A word on the topic of green peppers: It’s high time to call for a cease and desist on the pollution of every other dish with this undesirable filler. Opinions seem to be aligned in decrying this noxious trend. By now, shouldn’t we be lobbying for an icon to appear alongside menu selections that are free of the offending substance? The people have spoken.
Pho Pasteur is at least the equal of any of the popular Vietnamese eateries in the area and arguably the class act of the bunch. At a time when most Asian restaurants impose an additional charge for rice, the entrees at Pho Pasteur are served with a complimentary order of steamed white rice—another example of the attention paid to detail.
But that first impression as I walked in the door told me just about everything I needed to know.
Pho Pasteur, 682 Washington St., Boston, Mass., is open seven days a week, 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m. 617.482.7467.For more information go to http://www.pho-pasteur.com.
Fred Kalil can be reached at email@example.com.
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