1201 W Arbrook Blvd, Ste 125, Arlington. 817-962-0001. 11am-9pm Sun, 11am-10 pm Mon-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Open since late summer, Pho Kim rocks a prime corner spot in one of the oddest, most rainbow-multi-culti shopping centers in South Arlington. In the location across from The Parks Mall, you can find the fabulous Ahi Poke Bowl, the venerable Thai House, Taste-Afrik, and several other nontraditional non-chain dining establishments. Depending on your pronunciation, the restaurant’s name might sound like something a bitter divorcee might say after her settlement, but the truth is the place is named for its chef and Vietnam’s arguably signature dish. The restaurant touts its authentic Hue cuisine: spicy, beautifully presented offerings from the coastal part of Vietnam, with a lot of vegetarian options.
The traditional spring rolls with shrimp included the usual combo of cool, crunchy veggies, delicate rice noodles, and immaculately fresh crustaceans. The translucent rice paper wrappers were delicate and taut –– a sure sign they were made fresh, if not exactly to order. But the salmon spring rolls with warm fish in a subtle teriyaki-style glaze augmented by fresh lettuce and mango were outrageously good. The slightly crispy salmon tangoed beautifully with the sweet fruit and crunchy spring mix. It was a little off-putting to eat a warm spring roll, but a few bites of the salmon meant that nobody at my table of three could hold onto their qualms for long. The regular spring rolls came with a fairly standard peanut sauce, while a slightly sweet, almost fruity orange dipping sauce that packed a hint of spice accompanied the salmon rolls.
Most Vietnamese restaurants have an assortment of bún (noodle) dishes topped with various proteins, but it takes a fairly authentic restaurant to provide more than just the standard chicken or beef. At Pho Kim, sugarcane shrimp paste and tofu-wrapped shrimp are on offer. One dish begs the question: Is there ever enough shrimp-wrapped sugarcane? More would have been better, but that just marks me as greedy. I don’t actually want to know what augments the shrimp in its little grilled wrapper, other than that this stuff was supremely tasty. The thin tofu-wrapped shrimp, with the crispy, slightly al dente wrapper of tofu “skin,” were as good or better than anything that comes out of a Vietnamese kitchen in Haltom City. The dish came with a plentiful amount of rice noodles, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and a delightful vinegary sauce.
There’s an undeniable Chinese influence to some of the menu offerings. Take the yeung chow fried rice: a peppery, soy-heavy base with four plump cooked shrimp and half a hog’s worth of pink-rimmed traditional-style pork. The spicy sausage bits, almost reminiscent of a boudin, tasted absolutely fantastic, and the ratio of rice to non-rice items was spot on. Kim’s special combo with a crunchy nest of pan-fried flat rice noodles offered a veritable pantheon of Chinese flavors: beef, pork, shrimp, and calamari lying perfectly on those crispy noodles with a succulent, soothing brown soy sauce. Fish balls and a garden full of bok choy and steamed veggies rounded out the plate. The longer the rice noodles sat, the gooier and more luscious the dish became. It was so good, I’ve added the fried rice noodle dish to my go-to comfort food items.
And, of course, there’s the pho Vietnam’s favorite staple. A small bowl of the good stuff with filet mignon sliced so thin the meat cooks about 30 seconds after hitting the steaming broth will run you $7.95. The broth was a little oily and had umami aplenty with spices I couldn’t exactly pin down. The bowl came with do-it-yourself condiments: jalapeño, basil, bean sprouts, carrots, and a lot of cold, thin rice noodles to play with.
If you like Vietnamese food, you’ll find plenty to clamp your chopsticks onto at Pho Kim’s little corner of the world. If you’re a novice to the cuisine, there’s still enough selection on the menu to keep you happy.
Spring rolls $3.50
Salmon rolls $4.99
Pho w/filet mignon $7.95
Vermicelli noodles w/tofu shrimp wraps and sugarcane shrimp $10.95
Yeung chow fried rice $10.95
Kim’s combo w/flat noodles $11.99