The next generation of a family that made its mark in the Hartford area with several Vietnamese restaurants has opened Pho 135 on South Main Street in West Hartford.
By Ronni Newton
A former West Hartford pizza parlor has been transformed into a family-owned restaurant serving authentic Vietnamese, by a member of the family that ran Que Huong – the state’s first Vietnamese restaurant that opened on New Park Avenue on the West Hartford-Hartford line back in 1975.
Tiffany Nguyen signed the lease back in February for 135 South Main St., the former location of South Main Pizza which closed in June 2015, and since then has been working energetically to get Pho 135 up and running as soon as possible.
She’s very excited about sharing her family’s recipes – and her own favorite dishes – with the West Hartford community. The restaurant officially opened on Aug. 8.
Pho (phở) is the centerpiece of the menu, and it’s homemade according to the family’s traditional recipe with a few of Nguyen’s personal touches. With a beef bone broth that simmers for hours as the base, pho, which is naturally gluten free, also includes rice noodles, fresh basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapeno pepper, lime, sliced onions, scallions, and sriracha and hoisin sauce. There are eight different proteins that can be added, including beef, meatballs, chicken, and shrimp, as well as oxtail and tripe. A vegetarian version is also available, made with vegetable broth, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and tofu. Bowls come in various sizes, from medium to extra large ($10-$14).
Nguyen’s family most recently ran the highly-acclaimed Bamboo Grill, which closed its Canton and Glastonbury locations over the past year as the family’s older generation retired. Pho 135’s selection of rice plates and other entrees include some of Bamboo Grill’s signature dishes.
Nguyen has given Pho 135 a modern twist, she said, and while her aunt, Dung Nguyen, is the head chef, it’s being run by the family’s younger generation.
The rice platter ($12) includes grilled and shredded pork, meat cake, topped with a sunny side up egg on a bed of lettuce, cucumber and pickles topped with fish sauce. There are a number of stir fries and fried rice dishes ($10-$12), including a vegetarian rice option.
One of Tiffany Nguyen’s personal favorites is the “Filet Mignon Shaking Beef,” pan-seared and sliced and served over watercress (or lettuce), tomatoes, cucumber, and rice, and drizzled with Vietnamese vinaigrette dressing ($15).
Chicken egg noodle soup, crispy noodles with beef and shrimp, and pork/shrimp/fish served in a clay pot with white rice are among the other house special entrees ($10-$13).
Appetizers ($5.50-$7.50) include spring rolls – shrimp, pork, lettuce, mint, and vermicelli noodles rolled in tissue-thin rice paper and served with a peanut sauce for dipping. Banh mi is one of Tiffany Nguyen’s favorites, and the “Vietnamese sliders” include cold sliced pork, pate, and a special sauce blend topped with fresh cilantro and served on a French roll. Several varieties of wings are also on the appetizer menu.
All vestiges of a pizza parlor are gone. To create a modern Vietnamese restaurant, Tiffany Nguyen gutted the space, including the kitchen. The floors are now a waterproof vinyl that resembles wood, and the walls are painted in bright hues to show off an art gallery of landscape photographs from Connecticut and Vietnam. There are new pendant lights, and Quartz counters that pick up the colors of the walls.
The beverage menu includes Vietnamese coffees and smoothies, as well as soft drinks. There are plans to have a full bar, but in the meantime BYOB is permitted.
Pho 135 seats 70. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information, visit the Pho 135 Facebook page or call 860-817-8132.
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