Why is it that hairdressers have such a cult-leader-like hold on their clients? I’ve been going to the same fella for almost two decades. The one time I left for a cheaper (and ultimately worse) option, I felt dirty, like I was cheating on my spouse with something I wiped off a barstool at 2am. The man who cuts my ever-graying hair and I were clearly meant to be. Exhibit A.) He’s a world-class foodie. The guy is always giving me leads, and way more often than not, his recommendations are spot on. On my most recent trip to his chair, he raved about a couple of Asian places.
Just down the road from his perch in the Ridglea area of Camp Bowie Boulevard, Pho & Grill 2 (6220 Camp Bowie Blvd, 817-349-0460), the sister restaurant of the original P&G in Cityview, occupies a blink-and-miss-it space in one of the street’s red terracotta-roofed shopping centers. And just to drive home the fact that you’re in the ritzy part of town, the eatery is stationed next to a holistic pet food store where you can buy your four-legged friend gluten-free kibble.
The interior of P&G 2 is warm, welcoming, and … green. The walls are a light green, the tablecloths are green, and the plush array of plants are green. I imagine if Willy Wonka were to design an authentic Vietnamese place, it would look like P&G 2 –– but with Oompa Loompas and kid torture.
My stylist suggested, and now I’m recommending, the grilled salmon on crispy rice ($11.50), served with sautéed bell peppers and onions; raw, fresh-tasting cucumbers and bright red tomatoes; and a lemon pepper sauce that dripped onto the perfectly cooked crispy rice to create a wonderful textural contrast to the fish on top. The salmon, cubed and glazed in what tasted like a mix of hoisin sauce and possible soy, was flaky and velvety-soft.
My guest opted for the traditional Vietnamese dish of “bits of everything we have in the walk-in on one plate,” or as the menu calls it, Grilled Shrimp & Pork, Egg, Egg Roll ($10.50), served with a pyramid-shaped pile of steamed sticky rice, and the familiar tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and julienned carrots. Because if you can’t decide what to order, get it all on one plate!
Though the brilliance of Haltom City’s Thai Charm (4023 E Belknap St, Ste A, 682-708-8921) has been lauded plenty in this paper – the place won a critic’s choice in our Best Of issue last year – I’ve never actually reviewed it for fear of turning these pages into a PR firm. But where my hairdresser leads, I follow.
Though he didn’t suggest it, the curry puffs ($7) piqued my interest, if for no other reason than the appetizer sounded like a breakfast cereal that should have never made it out of the focus group. The crust of the pastry was buttery and crumbled at the slightest touch of the fork. But the sweet curried chicken within its golden brown walls bordered on cloying. That’s the last time I stray from the program.
Better was the yen ta fo, a soup of tomato broth, fermented tofu, plump shrimp, cuttlefish, fish balls, white jelly mushrooms, fried tofu, crispy wonton skin, an assortment of seasonal veggies, and a gamey pork blood jelly that colored the entire dish a light puce. Unfortunately, my need to appear a badass sabotaged the whole experience. My occidental tongue couldn’t handle the level-three spice I ordered, and the soup sat unfinished – those tears weren’t just caused by the chiles.