Pho 75, Arlington, VA

Pho 75

Now that I’m back at the office, I’ve begun to revisit old haunts. The first on the list is Pho 75, to which I’ve already returned three times in the last 2.5 weeks that I’ve been back in the area.

The neighborhood has become gentrified, with a lot of pricey apartments and restaurants coming up in the last few years, but Pho 75 is surviving easily with an untroubled transition. It used to be a hidden-gem hole in the wall, but nowadays the dining room is often full of millennials, office workers and neighborhood folks contentedly sipping or slurping big bowls of delicious broth soaking through rice noodles.

You can get a regular or large bowl, plus your choice of meat, and the pho is served with a plate of fresh mint leaves and bean sprouts. It’s a good balance of carbs, protein and veg, with an umami broth that I assume is simmering away all day to intensify the flavor.

I recommend getting a large bowl with fat brisket. The brisket is sliced ultrathin, including a rind of fat, which is close to melting in tenderness. You can walk away very full for less than $10.

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Spinach Tortellini With Prosciutto

Tortellini with prosciutto

Hi, folks. It’s been a while since I posted. Been busy with traveling. We moved out of Vancouver at the close of our tour, then spent time on the Oregon coast, Portland, and Florida.

I’m now back in Washington, D.C. for a year. So far, the spring days are warm and long and full of sunshine. The trees are budding, and there’s an ease in the air. A welcoming return.

Hubby’s on a business trip this week, and I’m back into daily life in D.C., which has been very busy and enjoyable thus far.

I’m keeping weeknight dinners simple now that I’m working in an office again. The special for tonight: fresh pasta tossed with some veg and topped with prosciutto. I dined with a glass of chilled red wine and tuned into TCM, my favorite channel. The movie: “1776”. The meal: comforting and elegant.


1 pack of fresh spinach-filled tortellini
5-7 small tomatoes (cherry tomato size), sliced
1/2 pack of white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 bag of arugula
parmesan to taste
salt to taste
olive oil to taste
4 prosciutto slices, chopped

Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium pot, and cook the tortellini. Fresh pasta is quick to cook; I recommend about 5 min. Drain the pasta when ready and set aside.

Saute the tomatoes, mushrooms and arugula in the pot with olive oil, then stir in the pasta. Add more olive oil, parmesan and salt to taste, then turn off the heat. Plate the pasta, and garnish with the prosciutto.

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R&B Brewing Co.

R&B brewery

R&B Brewing has been in East Van since 1997, and it’s expanded in the last year to include the Ale & Pizza House under the same roof. When we visited last summer, the interior of the new space was finished, but it wasn’t open yet because the restaurant license hadn’t come through at the time.

When we visited earlier in March, the place was in full swing; a hotbed of hipsterdom with casually stylish folks nursing beers and eating pizzas as curated music grooved through the room via the many surrounding speakers. The atmosphere is like the living room of a culture vulture: records on display, a piano near the bar with sheet music, book shelves above a seating area, and tables made of reclaimed wood. The dining space was full, and more people kept coming in. Luckily, we were able to snag a corner at the bench seating by the windows. We ordered several tasting flights, and the two standouts for me were the Raven Cream Ale and the Dude Chilling Pale Ale.

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Nero Belgian Waffle Bar

We’ve passed by Nero Belgian Waffle Bar many times. It’s in our neighborhood, and we looked upon it as part of the local scenery, without ever venturing inside.

Oh, what we were missing.

We had a Liège for the first time just in the last few weeks. We walked over after dinner with friends on Robson Street, and they introduced us to these lovely, sweet waffles. They’re small and dense and filled with a bit of cream. And butter. I tasted a lot of butter.

They’re amazing.

I don’t tend to be blown away by sweets (my palate loves savory dishes), but these babies are sublime. They’re so good, you have to eat one to understand. Then, you’ll be hooked.

The outlet on Robson has a tiny dining space, so I recommend buying a box of Liège and savoring at your leisure at home.

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Vij’s in Vancouver

Vijs appetizers

The ricotta-stuffed naan and squash appetizers at Vij’s.

Before we leave Vancouver, which, alas, is soon, we’re making it a point to try restaurants that have been on our radar. Vij’s, now in Cambie Village, is one of them. Vij’s has a great reputation around town (as well as in Toronto, from what we overheard from fellow diners). The man behind the restaurant is a friend of Anthony Bourdain and has appeared on “No Reservations”.

We had dinner at Vij’s on Saturday, and, as their website does warn, there was a line when we walked up to the restaurant a little after 5 p.m. Reservations aren’t allowed, so it’s typical for a line to form before the 5:30 p.m. opening time.

Thankfully, the line was short when we showed up, with only a few people waiting in front of us. We waited about 20 min. before the doors opened, and a server came out while we were waiting to offer everyone fries in a coating of paprika and salt. I don’t remember what the server said the fries were made of, but I’m guessing by the texture and taste that they were cassava or taro fries.

Vijs lamb posicles

The lamb popsicles entree at Vij’s.

The dining room reminded me of being on a cruise ship. Now, I’ve never actually been on a cruise ship, but the open dining room, the arrangement of the tables and the pattern on the carpet had the look and feel of a cruise ship space. Lanterns with a cutout pattern made for romantic lighting.

Once we were seated, a server came by and offered pakoras to everyone in the dining room. Everyone was also served chai. I give the restaurant high points for hospitality because of these gestures.

We ordered the appetizer special of the evening: ricotta-stuffed naan. Two of the pieces were overly charred, but all in all, I thought the combo of the ricotta and what tasted like chickpea paste was delicious. It was a good combo with our other appetizer, Vij’s Monarch Butterfly, which is raw sugar and ghee braised squash with wood ear mushrooms in a coconut milk sauce that we used as a dip for the stuffed naan.

Vijs duck breast

The duck breast entree at Vij’s.

For the entrees, we had the lamb popsicles and the duck breast. Both were good, but given the restaurant’s reputation, we were expecting more inventive takes, like what we saw with certain dishes at Hawksworth. Our entrees were served in curry sauces, red for the duck breast and a citrus-y cream for the lamb.

The mains come with long-grain rice and naan sides. The server will give you more sides with no extra charge, so you’ll definitely be full.

The verdict: A very good, classy, filling meal with points for hospitality, although the menu wasn’t as inventive as we expected.

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Baked Oysters

Baked oysters

When we came back from our last trip to Qualicum Bay on Vancouver Island, we brought a bunch of oysters home that we plucked from the beach ourselves. Ah, the memories. These babies were huge, and every time I think about them, I long for more. They were a delight to discover, harvest and, of course, eat.

What to do with the oysters we brought home?

We thought about one of the recipes my father is most proud of, which is his recipe for baked mussels. He prepares a bath of butter for the mussels and tops them with Parmesan, dried basil and crispy minced garlic.

We applied his technique to the beach oysters and accented it with our own touches: hot peppers, bacon and fresh basil.

The basics: Melt some butter on the stove top and saute minced garlic in the butter, then spoon this mix into the open shell of each oyster so it coats and surrounds the meat. Saute some chopped bacon and also spoon this onto the oysters. Sprinkle some chopped banana peppers (or hot sauce) and Parmesan shavings on each oyster, and garnish with chopped fresh basil. Bake in the oven for 10-20 min., depending on desired texture. The result is a juicy seafood delight.

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Scallop Coral

Scallop coral

When we moved to Vancouver, we had visions of going diving and bringing up bags of scallops. Alas, we have yet to see a scallop in the waters of British Columbia.

But there’s always the supermarket. And T&T, a major Asian grocery chain in Vancouver, is a good place to get scallops. Clearly, not the same as harvesting them yourself, but the scallops are fresh nonetheless.

We treated ourselves to a batch a few weeks ago, sauteed in butter. We’ve never opened scallops before and found it’s difficult to slice the flesh off perfectly if you’re new to the practice.

We also discovered that inside the shell is a big pink sac next to the scallop meat. We did a little sleuthing and discovered that this is what’s called coral, and it’s a part of the scallop that you can eat. I recommend tasting the coral if you shuck scallops yourself. It has a similar texture to roe.

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