Colorful Plates at Pho Cafe on Bardstown

We were lunching at Pho Cafe on Bardstown, a cafe I’ve been jonesing to try since it opened. “Just make sure everything is vegetarian,” I told our server, to end the discussion on whether “fish sauce” contains fish.

Pho Cafe is one of the newer restaurants in what I consider one of the foodie centers of the universe. And it’s a great addition to the plethora of cafes, coffee shops, pubs, and ethnic diners that line this stretch of the Highlands.

When you enter, Pho Cafe looks like an order-at-the-counter sort of place, but, to my pleasant surprise, the server asked us to take a comfortable booth instead.

Pho Cafe on Bardstown looks like a fast food establishment, but it’s more of a classy diner. Booths were surprisingly comfortable.

Vegetarians, rest assured there are plenty of good options here. Vegans may want to call ahead for an ingredients list, if you stress out about a trace element of animal product in sunflower lecithin, or something.

The omnivore (aka Joel Worth) and I split the summer veggie roll. (Vietnamese names available on the menu, for those who take pride in speaking food in multiple tongues.)

The summer veggie roll comes in a nearly transparent rice paper which gives you a modified view of the veggies you are about to put in your mouth. The roll is a combination of vermicelli noodles along with tofu, carrots, bean sprouts, and cucumber. It’s served cold, and much like eating your salad wrapped in stretchy, edible paper.

The hoisin peanut sauce makes this dish because the ingredients, while extremely fresh, are a little bland. The peanut sauce was on the overly sweet side for me, but will perfectly suit the palates of other diners.

I happen to like rice paper rolls much more than traditional fried egg rolls which often leave me too full for my main course.

I moved on to an entree titled Com Thit Nuong. This turned out to be some perfectly cooked rice, what I would describe as stir fried vegetables, and a side salad which features grated turnips, dressed with something very like thousand island.

This is served cold, and it was perfect for an August day of temperatures in the steady nineties. It was a riot of color, very appealing to the visual palate. And it was also a wonderful variety of textures and tastes. Nothing dull about this vegetarian plate.

Many of the entrees at Pho Cafe are built on a base of vegetables or noodles, making it extremely easy to go vegetarian here. The menu gives you a choice of pork, chicken, shrimp, beef, or tofu. I have a limited tolerance for tofu, so I asked for extra veggies instead, and this did not confuse our server at all.

If, like me, you have an omnivore in your life, mine reports that the “shaking beef” is basically a tenderloin and an excellent value, as the meat melts in your mouth.

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