My father is not a picky eater at all. He will kindly eat mediocre food without complaint and chalk it up as sustenance. Honolulu has a plethora of Vietnamese restaurants, however, having had many meals in Vietnam and quite the accomplished home cook of the cuisine, he can be strict on presentation and particular where he eats. Pho 97 is where he frequently rests his chopsticks.
My father's go-to dish for lunch here is bun bo Hue, a hearty rice noodle dish with chunks of bone-in beef and pig knuckle. Unlike pho tai (what I ordered), the beefy soup is spicy and richly-seasoned with lemongrass and fermented shrimp paste.
I feel like the newbie foreigner each time I order pho tai with him. On this trip, I was on the fence between pho tai and bun rieu (tomato crab noodle soup), but opted for pho to be different. I realize that sounded odd, but when we go out to a Vietnamese restaurant in Cleveland, I may order pho once a year or less as much as I love it.
While I love the slightly meatier broth at #1 Pho (Cleveland), I prefer the flowery aromatic soup that is more common in Hawaii. Aside from the selection of fresh greens available to garnish our bowls, I really appreciate the default service of sliced meat raw on the side; a very common practice in Hawaii and impossible in Cleveland.
This was a perfect lunch, delicious, nostalgic, and light, with dinner at Bernini (an upcoming post) with my aunts and uncle on my itinerary in 3 hours. I would have ordered a vat otherwise. As one of a handful of restaurants my father and I dined together before I left home, it is always a pleasure to return to Pho 97.
1120 Maunakea St 176
Honolulu, HI 96817
Tel: (808) 538-0708