When you spend all day on site with a customer, it is sometimes difficult to break away for lunch, and this is what happened on my first day in Portland. Due to meetings and such, we ended up just grabbing something quick at the cafeteria. It wasn’t bad for a hospital cafeteria, but it wasn’t anything worth writing about. The second day we were determined to make sure we got off site. It helped that Jane had a hankering for some Pho. So, after we wrapped up a meeting we headed out in the direction of Bambuza which happens to be her favorite restaurant place nearby.
Bambuza is probably a 5 minute walk from the bottom of the tram at Oregon Health and Sciences University, located in the base of a condominium complex right down on the river (the the restaurant faces the street and does not have a luxury water view). The inside decor is very nice and bright and lively, with bamboo plants and brightly painted walls. At the end of the building is the counter for ordering which actually surprised me a little bit given most of the Pho places I’ve been to have a server. There were tables for individual groups, and large, long, community tables in the middle. When I got to the front of the line I ordered myself a beef pho and a grilled pork sandwich…which was weird because usually it’s something like Pho Tai Nam and a Banh Mi Thit Nuong.
This brings up a pet peeve of mine…if you are an “ethnic” restaurant, don’t Americanize the names. If I go to a sushi restaurant I know that I like Hamachi and Maguro. I don’t want to order “Yellowtail” and “Tuna”. Makes me question the authenticity, quality and pride of the restaurant. Plus it confuses me when I’m ordering.
Anyway, after I ordered my lunch, I was given a number and took a seat at one of the community benches to wait for it to be brought out. For those that have never had Pho (pronounced “Fuh” like “What the Fuh”, it’s a really simple dish; a beef broth with rice noodles, onions and very thinly sliced beef (chicken and tofu are more in chunks). Then on the table you usually have a chili paste, siracha bottle and hoisin sauce that you can add to increase flavor and heat. And finally you have a plate full of bean sprouts, mint or basil, lime and jalepenos that you can add to personalize it further. So when my soup arrived I got the little plate of veggies, but there was no sauces except this very small cup that hardly changed the color of the broth, let alone add any flavor. This was a bit off-putting as Pho is a personalized lunch, kind of like coffee in the northwest. Everyone does it their own way, so missing some of ingredients was a little annoying.
But the Pho was good. I mean it is hard to mess up Pho. At the same time though, it’s hard to do exceptional Pho. As for the sandwich, that was pretty good too. The bread was incredibly crispy, and there was almost too much of it. But the pork was flavorful and the cucumber and carrots a nice compliment. Again nothing amazing, but nothing bad.
Lunch was nice and filling and definitely got me through the rest of the day. But, other than my gripes about the Americanized menu and the lack of the personalization ingredients, there really isn’t a lot to say. I enjoy Pho, so I enjoyed the Pho I had. If you like Pho and happen to be in that part of Portland, it’s a good, clean, simple place to stop into.