Pho Hong rings the gong for a delicious meal

Queen Victoria said, “things taste better in small houses.”Having just spent a lazy afternoon sipping Tom Yum soup and munching on Vietnamese crepes at the teensy-tiny restaurant that is Pho Hong, one cannot help but agree with such a statement.The walls are painted in a muted lime and are adorned with Asian scrolls — with six tables, three booths and low budget décor, Pho Hong resembles every other Vietnamese restaurant.Pho Hong is the third Vietnamese restaurant to open in the Burlington area, but it holds the distinction of being the only one within the city limits.Pho Hong’s cuisine embodies the heart of Vietnamese cooking and provides each customer with a seriously good meal.So, while the Formica tables suggest casual dining, the dishes revel in richness and spice.At first glance, a culinary novitiate might feel nervous at the sight of Pho Hong’s menu.Ranging from traditional dishes like Pho Ga, a rice noodle soup, to Hu Ti Mu, a multi-faceted meat dish served with quail eggs, it is difficult to make a choice.Rice is a staple of Vietnamese cooking, as are fish, pork and poultry, but it is beef that is considered a luxury.The Hoahn Thanh soup — wanton soup with beef dumplings — seemed like a good choice for a satisfying appetizer.This light soup is made from pork broth, three dumplings and is sprinkled with scallions.It tastes as if the word “clean” has come to life in your mouth. It is simply delicious.But this soup pales in comparison to the Tom Yum Soup — if Ceres ever had a preferred soup of harvest vegetables, this would be it. The first taste was literally breathtaking — it was encumbered with spices.Laden with tomatoes, chili paste, lemon grass mushrooms, tofu and galangal, this appetizer is one of the best dishes that Pho Hong has to offer.Another dish, Bahn Xea, involves Vietnamese-style crepes — made out of rice flour, peanut oil, sugar and coconut milk — stuffed with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and onions. The crepe comes with a bowl of sweet vinegar sauce, an irresistible addition.The burnt edges of the crepe, the saltiness of the pork and the bite of the onion combined with the sweet vinegar make this a scrumptious entrée.Better still was the Spicy Sichauan Eggplant.The eggplant is prepared in traditional Thai style — with basil leaves, onions, green and red peppers, carrots, green beans and mushrooms — topped with a black bean sauce and served over rice noodles.The portions for these dishes were perfect, their flavors sharpened, acting as more than ample compensation for the decor.On their slow days, Sunday through Thursday, the restaurant seems relatively quiet.This past Sunday was the prefect day to go — there was no wait and the service was generous.Of course, Pho Hong must have flaws. One can see that on a busy Friday or Saturday night, the few tables and limited waitstaff could make for an interesting evening — or a slow one.But on a cold Sunday afternoon in April, Pho Hong is the kind of restaurant in which you will feel immensely comfortable, not to mention delightfully full.