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Two New Pho Restaurants Debut in Asiatown

Get excited, pho connoisseurs

Pho Ga Dong Nai

Houston’s pho game just keeps on getting stronger. Though there are already more than a dozen respectable pho restaurants along Asiatown’s main Bellaire Boulevard drag — among them, Pho Binh by Night, Pho Dien, Pho Ga Dakao and Pho Ve Dem — pho connoisseurs now have two new restaurants to patronize.

Debuting just last week is Pho Ga Dong Nai, which takes over the spot long occupied by the defunct Pho Thai Binh Duong after two other concepts, Pho Ve Dem II and ToPho, failed to take off. Owned by the extended family of the highly lauded Cajun Kitchen, the new restaurant’s specialty is pho ga, or chicken pho.

One of the main things differentiating Pho Ga Dong Nai from places like Pho Ga Dakao or Com Ga Houston? “We source our chicken from a Vietnamese-owned chicken farm out of Austin,” says family representative and Cajun Kitchen owner John Nguyen. “The chicken is free-range and their diet is all organic without any antibiotics or growth hormones,” he says. “They get to grow up free range for about four-and-a-half months as opposed to the average of seven weeks for conventional chicken.”

“The other thing that will set us apart is the fact that we use filtered water as the base for all of our pho,” adds Nguyen. In fact, the restaurant procured a $22,000 water filtration system to achieve a cleaner, clearer broth.

Free range chicken pho
Pho Ga Dong Nai/Facebook

Pho Ga Dong Nai, which gets its name from the Dong Nai region in Vietnam where the family matriarch is from, also has a glass-enclosed noodle room featuring a pho noodle-making machine. Though it hasn’t yet been put to use (the restaurant is waiting to ramp up operations before it begins making its own noodles), fresh noodles will definitely feature in the near future. Other design elements of the spacious, clean, and brightly lit space include a trickling water fountain and several wall-mounted flat screen TV’s.

The opening menu at Pho Ga Dong Nai is simple with just four dishes: Chicken pho in the regular soup or dry version, with the broth served on the side; beef pho, made of pure beef and bone broth cooked for more than 14 hours; a cha gio egg roll appetizer; and com ga Hai Nam (Hainanese chicken and rice). Both the chicken and beef pho can be customized with the standard variety of topping choices. The menu will expand to include other chicken-focused dishes such as goi ga (chicken salad) and mien mang ga (chicken and bean thread noodle soup with bamboo) as in the coming months.

Mr. Pho/Facebook

Also located along Bellaire Boulevard, less than two blocks away from Pho Ga Dong Nai, is newcomer Mr. Pho, which quietly opened in mid-April. Occupying a small 49-seat strip mall space in the same shopping center as old-school Vietnamese haunts like Thien Thanh banh cuon house and Nguyen Ngo Cafe, Mr. Pho is the passion project of three male friends — Kenny Pham, Yen Gia Lang, and Sonny Pham — hence the name, Mr. Pho.

“We all love to cook and eat and drink,” says Pham. “Yen is well known for his broth. I’m well known for my steak. Before we opened, friends always raved about our food, so when the opportunity for this space came to our attention, we said, ‘Let’s open a restaurant where we can sit back and drink and enjoy.’”

The menu is a simple one-pager filled with two soups and four rice plate options. For soups, the main dish is a Northern Vietnamese-style beef pho, pho Bac, made of 14-hour beef bone broth which comes with toppings like rare, marinated filet mignon. The beef pho is customizable with other common beef toppings such as beef meatballs, tendon, brisket and fatty flank. The second dish, which is already getting rave reviews online to rival their pho, is the bun bo Hue (spicy pork and beef noodle soup).

For rice plates, the options include com suon bo dai han (Korean-style bbq short ribs with rice), com bo luc lac (shaking beef with rice), com ga xoi mo (Vietnamese fried chicken with rice), and com chien duong chau (combination fried rice).

Pho Ga Dong Nai is located at 11528 Bellaire Blvd and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Mr. Pho is located at 11210 Bellaire Blvd, Ste. 133, and is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday, closed Wednesday. Tel: (832) 243-6117