Everybody loves pho. I don't think anyone in Vietnam makes any other kind of soup. Why bother? Pho is awesome. It comes to your table in a bowl as big as a witch's cauldron, with a secret nest of glassy rice noodles and shreds of barely cooked beef submerged in a pool of hearty broth. On the surface of this savory pond float lily pads of cilantro and sliced scallion. Could you possibly need anything else? Well, the pho thinks you do, because you also get a sidecar of lime, sliced jalapeno, and bean sprouts.
If you like to make sure people hear you talking about this guy, you'll LOVE overpronouncing the word "pho!"
My only problem with pho (you should know that my problems are frustratingly superficial) is the pronunciation of the word "pho." Most people call if "fuh." I don't think that pronunciation does justice to how awesome pho is, because "fuh" sounds like some word a drooling retard might utter as he boards the short bus. So I call it "foe," as in "the opposite of friend," because that's just what pho is to your hangover: a mighty enemy. After all, everyone knows that when a word enters the English language, its pronunciation may change. Otherwise we'd all still be calling croissants "cwassannhh" and sounding like idiots. Do you pronounce the Eiffel Tower "la tour deefell?" Because if you don't, then your argument holds no water. If you DO, however, say every French word with a Parisian accent, then you're probably also the kind of person who talks about Proust all the time--and I hate you for that too.At any rate, I've been driving along Delridge, directly in front of Pho Aroma, for some time now. At first I was put off by the name "Pho Aroma" because I can't stand the word "aroma." It's the kind of word 5th graders use to describe the smell of a fart. But eventually curiosity got the best of me: Pho Aroma is always packed, and the actual pho aroma emanating from the place smelled fucking delicious, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
Ultimately I was glad I went inside. The shrimp salad roll ($3) is pretty typical: for this price you get four rolls, sticky translucent rice wrappers folded into tight cylinders around a filling of lettuce, noodles, a couple steamed shrimp, and julienned carrots. Pho Aroma's shrimp rolls have an additional twist: a crunchy pipeline of fried wonton wrapper runs through the center of the roll for texture. If they could only figure out a way to fill the crunchy pipeline with peanut sauce, so you don't have to dip it yourself, we'd be in business. Molecular gastronomists, take motherfucking note.
The pork banh mi is killer, though like the shrimp roll, on paper it seemed pretty standard: there was the usual crusty Vietnamese baguette, split open like your mom on a Saturday night, with roast pork, julienned carrot, unapologetically spiced with slices of fresh jalapeno, and topped with cucumber and a couple sprigs of cilantro. Simple, really, but words can only assemble a shadowy makeshift representation of how awesome it was.
Pho Aroma's version of this classic was elevated above the horde of competitors by the fact that the pork was REALLY FUCKING GOOD. It had a healthy charred crust, yet was still tender, and the meat was so thoroughly penetrated with flavor that it seemed like they'd marinated it for centuries. Best of all, the banh mi was only $2.50. Yes, for only two dollars and fifty motherfucking cents, you too can take this masterpiece home with you, and then chow the fuck down on it.
The pho itself was also tasty, if overpriced. At Pho Aroma, a small pho sets you back $6, but anyone who's ever eaten pho knows that Vietnamese restaurants take liberties with the word "small" to an egregious extent not seen since fat chicks on the internet hijacked the word "voluptuous." A "small" is therefore still damn big. Pho Aroma does a pretty typical job: you get probably a quart of broth in a big gleaming white bowl, with an undersea mound of noodles, and your choice of rare beef, beef tendon, tripe, or meatballs.
Just go with the rare beef: it's top round, or chuck, or some other cheap cut, but they slice it so thinly it doesn't matter. The broth was rich and beefy, but maybe a bit tangy, and not herbal enough. Good pho has hints of cinnamon and five-spice powder in the nose, with a sweet smoky finish. Pho Aroma provides a pretty solid broth, but it isn't complex. Still, as with most pho joints, a small pho is still a big enough portion of soup to drown an infant, so I can't say I wasn't satisfied.
The "Shrimp pork chicken stir fry with mixed vegetables and egg noodles" ($7) sounded like it would be really fucking awesome, considering that they took the time to list every single ingredient, but it was lackluster. It was a giant pile of noodles, to be sure, but the sauce, despite having EVERY KIND OF MEAT IN THE WORLD IN IT, was disappointingly bland. Plus there was a cock-teasingly meager amount of bok choy.
Pho Aroma is good. Its location on Delridge is very strategic; people who live in the area colorfully known to taxi drivers as "Deep West Seattle" must typically venture either to White Center or California Ave if they want pho. Pho Aroma isn't perfect: local pho overlord Than Brothers is cheaper than Pho Aroma, while 88 Restaurant in White Center makes a more flavorful broth. I wouldn't go out of my way to go there, but if you live nearby and you need a banh mi and a steamy bowl of pho to warm up on a gray and shitty winter day, Pho Aroma will fit the bill, despite its shitty name.
Rating: 8 aromas out of 10
Pho Aroma is located at 5605 Delridge Way SW. To place an order, call 206-932-4343