Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Beef Combination Pho (Sliced beef, flank, brisket, tendon, tripe, and meatball)
Sliced Pork with Fish Sauce and Mild Curry Chicken
Warm Rice Pudding Custard
If I were to be completely honest, I'd have to admit that the sum total of times I've eaten Vietnamese cuisine in my life can be counted on the fingers of one hand - I can recall a place in Edison Park (Chicago) that Mrs. Hackknife and I went to not long after we were married, and not much more than that. This is why I was excited when I first discovered Pho Quyen (8404 W. Hillsborough) while driving through the Town & Country neighborhood of Tampa one afternoon (the smiling cow and green striped awnings on the building's exterior are eye-catching and made me first think that it was an ice cream parlor). The interior is much less distinctive (think 1980s Asian buffet), but the food is tremendously good. We began with the house spring rolls, containing shrimp, pork, rice vermicelli, lettuce, and mint leaves wrapped in translucent rice paper (the peanut dipping sauce is addictive by itself), followed by a giant bowl of traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, or pho, filled with many parts of the cow (not smiling at this point), plus basil, bean sprouts, mild spicy peppers, lime, scallions, and onions. Of all the beef cuts simmering in the broth, the tripe was probably my least favorite (a little bland and chewy as tripe often goes); however, the rest was like a warm, snuggly blanket for my innards. Two entrees followed, a platter of terrific stir-fried pork in umami-laden fish sauce (with white rice) and a good, but not quite as outstanding, mild curry chicken. A slab of tasty warm rice pudding custard topped with crushed peanuts stood in for our dessert (not that we needed any after everything that preceded it). The leftovers proved to be just as good the next day, leaving me anxious for a return visit to try out more of their voluminous menu...