Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pho Lemongrass

I suppose I should start by admitting that I was a bit distracted during my dinner at Pho Lemongrass in Coolidge Corner. For the first half of the meal, I was trying to figure out if the man sitting across the restaurant was my cantankerous and somewhat frightening high school chemistry teacher. My dining companion Meredith (who brought me to Hanover and recommended I try Lou's) was nice enough to pose for pictures so I could sneakily get a photo of the mystery man and zoom in to analyze whether or not it was my old teacher. (Conclusion: I don't think it was him.) For the second half of the meal, I was succumbing to the high alcohol content of my Grateful Dead, "a Long Island Iced Tea with a touch of raspberry." Meredith, who really enjoys blue fruity drinks, got a Tropical Blue (rum, blue curacao, pineapple juice, and coconut nectar). Behind Meredith, you can see part of the very nice mural of Vietnam painted on the back wall (plus a suspicious waiter probably wondering why I'm taking so many pictures.) To the left of Meredith, you can sort of see how her side of the booth continues behind the wall. I guess that's where you stick your third friend whom you really didn't want to invite to dinner, but he or she tagged along anyway.

In the spirit of trying a little taste of everything so I'd have something to write about, we decided to start out with the Lemongrass Sampler, a plate full of treats, mostly fried: wings, spring rolls, steak teriyaki, shrimp toast, and something called a "Lemongrass star" - a fried wonton-ish thing stuffed with chicken, taro, carrots, and onions. The steak teriyaki and spring rolls were pretty standard, similar to most others I've had around Boston. The Lemongrass stars were nice and crispy and reminiscent of the golden triangles at Bangkok Bistro. The wings were huge - pretty much the whole wing was served as one piece instead of two or three smaller pieces. I was pleasantly surprised by the shrimp toast - the description ("grilled French bread with butter and shrimp mousse") weirded me out, but it actually ended up tasting like garlic bread topped with chunks of shrimp. Not bad.

For the main course, Meredith got a giant bowl of lemongrass chicken...I'm not sure what else was in there, but I think she liked it. I was on a mission to try the Vietnamese version of the Cambodian sweet lime soup I fell in love with at Noodle Street. The foodies over at told me that Canh Chua, a Vietnamese hot and sour soup flavored with tamarind, is similar, so I ordered a small bowl of it along with an order of pan-fried Saigon Ravioli. Although the soup wasn't as close to sweet lime soup as I was hoping, it was still a very nice soup on its own. The tamarind flavor adds a special something to the hot and sour broth. The raviolis were a little on the soggy side but otherwise ok.
To be fair, I should probably hold judgment on Pho Lemongrass until I've tried the pho. Meredith and I did enjoy our meal, but the food wasn't anything out of the ordinary. The ambience, though a little dated, was relaxing, and the service was excellent.

Address: 239 Harvard St, Brookline
(617) 731-8600

Pho Lemongrass on Urbanspoon

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