Veranda Noodle House – Pho Sho!

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Veranda Noodle House opened about a year ago on Commercial St. as the third in a series of “Veranda” restaurants from the same owners. In a search for someplace new to eat, my wife mentioned them and I gave a thumbs up thinking that it might be nice to have some soul insulating noodles as we experienced cold weather while heading like a freight train toward the winter months here in Maine. We made our way out the door of our house on a slightly blustery Friday night with warm noodle soup on our minds.

When we got there, it was pretty early and the restaurant was slow, so we were seated quickly. Both my wife and I skipped alcoholic beverages in favor of water. I was ravenous and looking right away for an app before worrying about anything else. There were many options and Crab Rangoons looked promising. They always seem to hit the spot and tend to be relatively consistent regardless of the restaurant they’re coming from. I eventually decided I didn’t feel like anything fried though and instead went with an order of Steamed Thai Dumplings. Mrs. Portlandeater went with something a little healthier, Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls – Lettuce, carrot, mint, cucumber, bean sprout, rice noodle, freshly rolled with rice paper and served with sweet and sour sauce.

My dumplings came out faster than a speeding bullet, making me think they knew in advance what I was going to order. I suppose that was impossible, but they did arrive unbelievably quickly. I took a first glance at them to take note of the most important characteristic of dumplings that can be determined visually and saw that they were on the small side. I generally find that dumplings are either very large or quite small, and these were the latter. I brushed that aside and went to work on them, cutting one in half and dipping it in the ginger sauce that accompanied them. It was very good. The nice steamed, doughy texture and well seasoned pork made a pleasant combination with the sauce adding the sweetness. No, they weren’t the gigantic dumplings I prefer, but they were worth the order.

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As I worked on the little meat suitcases, she went to town on the spring rolls. I finished my food and then took a portion of hers. There were two well-stuffed rolls, each cut into two and I took one of the halves. I’m not much a fan of shrimp, but I took a big bite anyway. There was a sizable crustacean in there, but I was pleased with the freshness and really appreciated the mint adding a flavor tint to the vegetables. Their sweet and sour sauce, which was topped with peanuts, was also notably delicious. They were really solid and we both enjoyed them.

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It took a while after we were done our apps for our main course orders to get taken. At least by that time I wasn’t quite as hungry anymore, but I was excited to get to our next edibles. We both agreed that we wanted chicken and noodles. I wanted pho – that’s pronounced “fuh”, if you care – so I ordered the Pho Ga – Large noodle soup with chicken; served with a plate of bean sprouts, basil leaves, lime, and chili. She wanted the Grilled Chicken Vermicelli Rice Noodle – Vermicelli noodle topped with fresh lettuce, cucumber, carrot, bean sprout, mint, and roasted peanuts, served with sweet and sour sauce.

We didn’t have to wait long for the mains once the orders were in. My plate of veggie additions came out first and then both bowls next. They were enormous and left us wide eyed as they were laid on the table. There were crazy amounts of both broth and substance in the dish with lots of chicken, onions, and scallions on the top. I took all my veggies – sprouts, basil, jalapenos, culantro – and threw them into the bowl. Then I squeezed in the lime and was ready to eat. I started with several spoonfuls of broth to whittle it down a little and get to the other parts of the soup. It was full bodied and warmed me up perfectly on a cool night.

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Once I lowered the fill line of my bowl somewhat, I worked on consuming some of the veggies, chicken, and noodles. All parts were perfect and as with the mint from the spring rolls earlier, the herbs in this one added a ton of great, fresh flavor. The basil and culantro were magnificent additions that took the meal to another level. Throughout the process, as I reduced the broth and left the hearty portion in the bowl, I would take the hoisin sauce on the table and add it to my soup. I don’t enjoy altering the broth, but I loved the sweet flavor on chicken and noodles in particular once they were on top of the liquid.

I was delving deeply into my food when I felt myself starting to get full. In order to make sure I was able to try my wife’s before I quit, I grabbed a bite of her mixture. It was outstanding. The chicken reminded me of a teriyaki and the veggies made it into a salad with noodles. She was very happy with it and I agreed that it was fantastic, both in quantity and quality. She stopped with a lot of food left as I continued working, eventually leaving a fair amount of broth and a few noodles.

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Once we gave up on eating any more, we received our bill which came to $42 before tip. It was tough to argue with. For the amount of food we had, I’m confident we could have taken the rest home and had another full meal. And if you think, “well, it’s only soup”, I assure you, this soup was chock full of enough goodness to feed a small army. And my wife’s food, more along the lines of a salad, contained the same massive, filling portion you would want after having not eaten for days. I suggest going to Veranda Noodle House for all your soupy supper needs. This is the perfect time of year for it and their food is excellent. I strongly recommend the items we had, but I’m quite sure they’ve got lots of tasty items for all types of eaters. Soup for you!

Stay hungry.

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