Have you heard the one about the food critic who went to the pho restaurant and filled up on pizza?
I recently visited a new Asian noodle place on South Hulen Street in the now-turnstile location next to The Tavern in one of the area’s ubiquitous generic-looking, vaguely upscale shopping centers. Momma Pham’s Noodles & More (2747 S Hulen St, 817-924-2749) has been open only a short time and is the third eatery to set up shop in that spot in as many years, following the short-lived Beik Mediterranean Grill and Inzo Italian Kitchen.
Momma Pham’s really takes the “& More” part of its name seriously. When my guest and I arrived for a weekday lunch, the excessively chatty owner met us at our table before we were even seated.
“Sorry to bombard you just as you walk in the door,” he blustered with equal parts contrition and excitement. “But would you like to try a complimentary slice of pizza?”
How could we refuse such a tempting and confusing offer? The pizza recipe, he explained, goes back three generations to his time slinging pies at a longstanding pizzeria in his home state of New Jersey. Though he won’t put it on the regular menu, he does plan to discretely sneak it onto the online menu, so it’ll be a saucy little secret for his regulars.
Oh, wait. I guess I just spilled the proverbial beans. Anyway, I suppose the pizza-pho cultural crossover is just as much a product of the owner’s background as it is that his space came with a cool brick oven held over from the building’s previous tenants. It would be a shame to let that pristine instrument of epicurean joy go to waste.
And, for the record, the simple pizza of mozzarella, provolone, and fresh-tasting tomato sauce was excellent. The crust crackled, and the white interior–– soft, somewhat springy, with a slow-building, many-layered, lively flavor underlined by salt — steamed
Though we didn’t need an appetizer after inhaling two slices, duty called. The serving of fried chicken wings ($5.99) –– ironically, nay, cruelly –– was large enough to have served as an entree. The four whole wings were beautifully crispy and juicy and served atop a pool of Sriracha-kissed chile oil. Without the sauce, however, the bird’s lack of seasoning became apparent.
At first glance, the kitchen’s pho is markedly darker than most. That, as the loquacious owner explained, is because the kitchen makes it own broth from marrow, skims its fat, and doesn’t use any unnatural ingredients or preservatives. And unlike the stiff cuts favored elsewhere, the meats on our visit — tender brisket, eye of round simmered into submission, and luscious beef meatballs ($8.99) — yields and melts without hesitation. A side plate spilled over with basil, lime, wheels of jalapeño, and bean sprouts heaped like kindling.
Pro tip: Order the lunch portions, especially if free pizza is on offer. The “large” bowl looks like it could house a Russian space monkey and orbit the moon.
The noodle bowl of grilled beef kebab ($9.99), a crowded topography of chopped lettuce, cucumbers, basil, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, and slithers of impeccably seasoned and grilled beef, would have been a comparatively light lunch had we not filled up on pie and chicken. That said, it’s easier to taste the nuances of a dish on a full stomach, and the kebab bowl was outstanding.
On a side note, I discovered Momma Pham’s only because The Tavern was packed like a Phish concert. I doubt Pham’s will sit empty once word gets out that a guy’s giving out free pizza. So get there soon, and hopefully the owner will bombard you.