Newcomer cuisine hits the spot

Pho C&C fills a void in the international food category in Chico

INTERNATIONAL FARE<br>Lena and Michael Ly chow down on Vietnamese cuisine at Pho C&C.

Lena and Michael Ly chow down on Vietnamese cuisine at Pho C&C.

Photo By Josh Graham

Pho C&C
3211 Cohasset Road (in La Dolce Piazza).
11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; closed Sundays

Pho C & C

3211 Cohasset Rd.
Chico, CA 95973

(530) 892-1415

It’s about time Chico started offering more international cuisine. With Pho C&C, the newly opened eatery in north Chico’s La Dolce Piazza, our town can now boast Vietnamese cuisine. And it’s worth boasting about, too.

My first visit to Pho C&C (the Pho is actually pronounced “fuh” with the inflection in your voice raising like a question at the end) was quick—lunch for one, to go. Figuring the grilled items would travel easier than the soups, I went with the traditional grilled pork and shrimp dish ($6.95), which comes with an egg roll and is served over a bed of rice noodles. I also chose an appetizer of chicken pot stickers ($3.75).

The food came out quickly. I was hardly waiting five minutes, it seemed—almost enough time to get through one song on the Vietnamese karaoke videos playing on a large flat-screen TV at the rear of the restaurant.

The aroma from the to-go bag during the drive back to work was almost too much to handle, and when I finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to dig in.

The shrimp was tasty and cooked to perfection, and went nicely with the rice noodles. The pork was quite tasty, too, but far too fatty for me. I tried to eat around it and eventually gave up, disappointed. The egg roll and chicken pot stickers more than made up for it, though. They were divine, despite a few of the pot stickers being a bit on the burned side.

I couldn’t judge a pho restaurant without eating the pho (noodle soup). So on my return visit, I ordered the Super Bowl ($6.95), which is noodle soup with shrimp, brisket and fish balls. I also wanted to try the fresh spring rolls ($3.25), so I ordered them as an appetizer. My companion chose the grilled beef dish ($5.75), with an appetizer order of the fried chicken wings ($4.75).

As we waited for our food to arrive, we surveyed the restaurant. Nice, fairly modern décor. Comfortable seating. Not too big, but filled with plenty of customers. The wait staff was particularly nice, and eager to please.

The spring rolls (shrimp, noodles and cabbage wrapped in rice paper) were good and fresh, especially complemented by the peanut sauce served with them. The fried chicken wings were expectedly greasy, but delicious when paired with the vinegar sauce.

When my soup arrived I could hardly believe its size—huge—with the shrimp, beef and fish balls floating on top. Mmm. My first spoonful presented me with an unexpected and unknown flavor. It was understated, a bit sweet, but paired well with the noodles (I love those rice noodles), meat and fish. When we asked our waiter, he informed us they use clove and a bit of cinnamon in the beef stock.

The Super Bowl was delicious. The shrimp and beef were good, but what I was most curious about were the fish balls. Small (about half an inch in diameter), white, dense balls of catfish: it was a foreign thing to me, so I had to try it. And I was quite pleased with the results, as the fishy taste wasn’t overpowering.

My boyfriend’s grilled beef came out less fatty than the pork I’d had previously, which he was thankful for, although it was still a bit on the chewy side. It was served over rice instead of noodles, and after adding a dab of the hot sauce provided on the table, he was quite pleased with his meal.

I’d heard complaints that Pho C&C has a limited menu and few vegetarian offerings. It’s true, the menu is simple. There are a handful of appetizers, soups and grilled dishes to choose from. And only two vegetarian options. But who is to say simple is bad? Sometimes I forget that here in America, we need five pages of choices instead of a clean listing of the best a restaurant has to offer.

Many people might be under the impression that all Asian food is the same. Sure, they have some similarities, and there are the staple ingredients. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anything like the pho at Pho C&C at any Chinese or Japanese restaurant in town.

And it’s about time.