Spiciest Dish in Columbus Series: Pho Chef
Pho Chef slings some spicy noodles, but are they the spiciest noodles in Columbus?
On a suggestion from a gentleman on Facebook, we stopped by Pho Chef this week off of 161 near Sawmill. In a deserted plaza (thanks COVID) with a vape shop, Pho Chef proudly sits at the corner with a cozy interior and seating for around 30. No delivery options, but still open for carryout, we sifted through their alpha-coded list to see what items we would test. “Our menu is your passport to a selective variety of fine Vietnamese cuisine and some signature dishes from neighboring countries of Southest Asia.”
Meatballs and Egg Rolls
I’ve done this more than once, so I’ll start with a warning, if you get the Grilled BBQ Meatballs, be careful with the speed at which you eat them. Twice now I’ve stabbed myself with these skewers and that is not an experience you want to take part in.
The Vietnamese Egg Rolls come with a sweet and slightly sour dipping sauce, that is a nice compliment to both the egg rolls and the meatballs. A gentle breeze before you lose your pho king mind.
Curry Tofu Fried Rice from Pho Chef
From time to time we are reminded that we should look for vegetarian options when searching for spicy dishes, so we opted for the Curry Tofu Fried Rice from Pho Chef. Looks-wise, this pepper-marked dish is a bit scary at first glance, but as you dig in it’s curry-heavy with little spice. Definitely flavorful, but not sure I would stick with the tofu moving forward.
Spicy Filet Steak Rice Noodles from Pho Chef
When the suggestion was made to try out Pho Chef for our list, the two recommendations were S16 and S17, Spicy Filet Steak Rice Noodles and Spicy Round Steak Rice Noodles, respectively. Each is adorned with a red pepper next to their name on the menu and are roughly the same dish other than meat quality and two quarters ($10 vs. $9.50).
Takeout pho is interesting because they don’t want the ingredients to sit together for too long and get soggy and gross, so it comes to you separated. In the above you can see the Thai basil, rice noodles, meat, green onions and then hiding are the sprouts, onions, lime, and jalapeño.
The above is the soup part of this Big Bowl of soup. A fierce red color, the Lady of the Farm shrieked as I moved the lid on the counter. This stuff is so potent it will sear a red ring into your countertop, so watch it. It’s not too indicative of spice, just tends to be the case when there is red oils of any sort. Prior to ordering I had heard there were different spice levels, but similar to Yat’s, when I called to place the order, there was no spicy ladder to climb.
Visible in the above picture is garlic, pepper flakes, and a redness that would make most folks re-consider eating this soup bowl. Ingredients splayed out across the table, it was time to combine them and see what we were dealing with from a spiciness level.
Nothing we like more than noodles sitting in a vat of oily red soup broth. Make your own pho set complete, it was time to smash this soup. For what it’s worth, the above is just half of everything. The “Big Bowl” is seriously a big bowl.
Wandering into my initial bite, I got mostly noodles. Surprise. A noodle dish with noodles. Another bite in I started to pick up on the oils and pepper flakes that swim throughout the soup itself. A quick hit of heat and then it was gone. A few more bites to the same effect. The heat of this dish clearly comes from the peppers and oils, but it’s similar to finding the floaties in your eye, you know those little clear squiggles that if you focus real hard you can find? The closer you look, the more likely you are to see it, but the harder it becomes for it to stay in one place. Same thing with this dish. If you look for the spiciness, you’ll find it, but the more you notice it, the faster it retreats.
“Maybe it’s spicy from the jalapeños” I hear you asking. After sitting in the soup for a few minutes I tried out the jalapeño and I’m not proud of it but I spit it out after a few chews. I still just do not like the taste of raw jalapeños. The heat from the jalapeño is a nice contrast to the chilis in the soup, but the size and thickness of the jalapeño was not pleasant. Would definitely chop it up a bit myself in the future. They’re just so bitter!
Further through the dish, a nice tingle rises on your lips but fades off as it warms up your insides. The basil and lime make for interesting partners in crime in this dish and the noodles are a great vessel for getting the spiciness into your face. The mark of a high-on-our-list spicy dish is usually easy to distinguish when only the liquid remains, so as is custom, once the noodles were gone, I finished the soup, drinking directly from the bowl. Savory and flavorful, but that spice level stays mellow and drifts off fast.
Where Does It Rank on Our List?
A slight nose trickle had accumulated throughout consuming the soup, so as I foghorned I reflected on where this dish stands on our list. Admittedly, the spiciest part of this dish for me was the heat I got from chomping into the jalapeño. The soup spiciness is consistent, but never rises too high. All things considered, we are placing this dish at #48, just behind the Havana Mia Hot Sauce and The Rail’s Bonfire Burger. It’s a good lunchtime spicy, but overall an approachable consistent dish.
You can find Pho Chef at 3540 W Dublin Granville Rd, open Monday through Sunday, 11AM to 8PM.
More Spiciest Dish in Columbus
Look below for more in our spiciest dish in Columbus series and hit us up if you have any suggestions that are not already on our list!
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