Pho is fundamentally a giant bowl of hearty soup. “When it’s cold and snowy, everyone wants pho,” says David Tran, who this year moved his Asian tapas concept from the west side to downtown and changed the name to Pleiku.
The word “fusion” is frequently attached to Tran’s restaurants but the “fusion” here is more an East-meets-West mix of restaurant philosophies than cuisines. The food is Vietnamese, the décor is L.A. minimalist, the menu is not an encyclopedic list aimed to please everyone but a chef’s list of all-star dishes, edited and personalized, and the rhythm of dining here is more like an American bistro than a funky pho shop.
The basis of Vietnam’s famous soup is solidly authentic at Pleiku; the recipe comes from Tran’s mother’s formula brought with her from Vietnam. (As does the house fish sauce.) “Our broth is brewed for 36 hours,” says Tran, and uses fresh onions, ginger and star anise to season the beef bones, but Pleiku’s vegan version of pho is based on an equally long-cooked vegetable broth. And the style of eating pho is slightly different at Pleiku. A traditional-sized bowl of pho is a commitment; the big hot bowl of broth is a meal in itself.
“When we did Pipa, the menu was all tapas, so we started serving smaller pho cups. We wanted to bring that same vibe downtown. This way, diners can start the meal with pho and also order other things,” says Tran. Tip: Skip the Cupcake wine list and pair your pho with a Hue beer.
264 Main St., SLC, 801-359-4544