Oklahoma City, OK
Pho 54 is part of a growing trend of suburban Vietnamese restaurants with possibly a more limited menu than can be found in the Asian District, but which do a good job in giving people an authentic taste of Asia. Among these restaurants, though, I believe Pho 54 has a more varied menu than most and probably makes fewer accommodations to “American taste” than some others.
Pho 54 is located on the west side of May Avenue a short distance north of Quail Springs Mall. One thing I immediately liked about it was the fact that they serve banh xeo, a dish I have been trying to find in suburban restaurants for quite a long time. Over time I have found other very good dishes, some of which were recommended by people I know. The short story is that this is one of the best alternatives to the Asian District restaurants I have found.
The interior is modern and comfortable, but it is so small I had a problem with cold air coming in the front door on one visit when the weather was particularly inclement. The service was good, and the food came out quickly. I have also had an order delivered and was happy with the result.
I believe this is only the second restaurant at which I have tried the Banh Xeo, a delicious crepe style dish which comes with a meat filling, and in which you add your own garnishes, fish sauce, and chile paste. The crepe seemed to disintegrate easily when I added the sauce, and I do not know if this is considered a flaw or if it is supposed to be this way. The flavor, though was very good.
Banh Cuon Cha Lua
The Banh Cuon Cha Lua was a dish I did not order but just sampled, and I thought this was very good as well.This is a dish of thin rice sheets served with Vietnamese ham, beef, cucumber and mint.
Like the banh xeo, I have had a similar dish at another restaurant, and in this case it was Lang’s Bakery in the Asian District of OKC. I liked the one at Lang’s a little better, but I will say that the one here seemed more substantial and was a good deal for the money.
Note: In 2021 I am unable to find this dish on their on-line menu but perhaps it is available if you ask.
Vermicelli bowls are really my standard way to test a Vietnamese restaurant and are what I order most frequently. The first one I tried here was Grilled Chicken, usually a good choice as it was here. It contained mint, a substantial amount of peanuts, and no bean sprouts (from this standpoint I thought it was perfect). They did not offer a lemongrass chicken dish, which is what I usually like to order (the only lemongrass dish here is the beef). They explained that all the vermicelli bowls have lemongrass, but the beef has more than the others. In any case, I thought the taste was good and I thought it was fine without the extra lemongrass.
The fish sauce was a little sweet, but it is in good company with the other suburban restaurants. Even many of the Asian District restaurants have a similar fish sauce (Pho Ca Dao in the Asian District has the best example of a sauce that seemed more authentic to me).
The Com Bi Suon Cha Trung or “Combination Pork” is definitely the type of dish I would expect to find in the Asian District. The menu describes it as steamed rice with grilled pork, shredded pork skin, pork loaf and fried egg. The pork loaf is on the lower left and the pork skin is the light colored meat on the center left side. The star of this dish, though, was the grilled pork (at the lower right and topped with the egg). Probably more than half of this large piece of meat was the bone, but the actual meat portion was so good that this is an experience that is well worthwhile. It was one of the most tender and delicious pieces of meat I have ever experienced (along with an excellent seasoning).
One interesting aspect of this dish was the different flavor combinations that were possible, such as tomato with egg, pork skin with carrot, and an almost endless list of other possibilities (and all of them were good).
One thing I definitely liked was the fact that they included a small packet of chile sauce with the delivery order (something a surprising amount of Vietnamese restaurants fail to do).
Putting It All Together
The restaurant might now have a more limited menu (during the COVID pandemic) but the obvious intent of Pho 54 is to provide as many choices as they can profitably sell. This is a very good thing for a suburban restaurant.
Although I have enjoyed everything here, the grilled pork really convinced me that it is possible to have Asian District quality food in the suburbs.
Hours: Open Daily
Smoking: No smoking
Most Recent Visit: Jan.14, 2021
Number of Visits: 3
Best Items: Grilled Pork, Grilled Chicken Vermicelli Bowl, Banh Xeo