Pho Con Bo seemed to appear overnight, taking the place of Texas Cantina Restaurant in a standalone building located right next to the sprawling Hong Kong City Mall IV on Bellaire Boulevard. I noticed the large white sign a couple of months ago, but didn’t really give it a second thought until a Vietnamese friend of mine — a pho connoisseur whom I trust —told me to go.
His brother-in-law had turned him onto it, he said. The tai, or rare steak, was different from other places in the city, he told me, urging me to try it. On the strength of that recommendation, I walked into Pho Con Bo just a few days later. It was late afternoon, around 2:30 p.m. when I arrived, so the lunch rush had already passed.
The space smelled of pho spices and was reminiscent of most old school Vietnamese restaurants around town, with overhead fluorescent lights, about 20 tables in the middle of the dining room and a counter in the back for checkout. There were also several booths along the back wall, as well as two elongated tables capable of seating parties of 20.
The laminated, two sided menu — one side for pho, the other for drinks —was almost indistinguishable from other pho restaurants. At the top, the prices were listed as $6.75 for nho (small), $7.75 for lon (large) and $9.75 for xe lua (x-large) bowls, which applied to standard two to three-topping bowls.
At the bottom of the menu, their Pho Dac Biet (special combo) was a dollar extra per bowl, and the Pho Duoi Bo (oxtail pho), which could only be ordered in large or x-large sizes, were $10.75 and 12.75, respectively. They also had a line item for Bun Bo Hue, and options for either a childen’s bowl or additional side orders of meats for $3.
Service was prompt, earnest and friendly. When I asked my server what the house specialty was, he actually suggested the Bun Bo Hue. Surprised, but making a mental note to come back and try it, I said I was more interested in the pho and had heard that they have good tai. He smiled and told me to try the pho dac biet, apologizing because they’d run out of the oxtail pho for the day.
Because it was already late afternoon, I ordered a small dac biet with tai on the side. It arrived steaming hot, with a side plate of blanched bean sprouts (I’d asked them to be blanched) and another side plate of herbs and lime. The server also offered hanh dam (thinly sliced vinegared onion) and nuoc dung beo (fatty broth), but I declined them both.
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The tai was indeed different than what you get elsewhere. At most pho restaurants, eye of round is used for the tai. At Pho Con Bo, they use thin-cut filet mignon for their tai, which, when cooked in the steaming hot broth, is much more tender and flavorful.
In terms of noodle to broth ratio, I thought they were overly generous with the noodles. This may have been why I found the broth rather bland. I’m a pho purist — I don’t add any sriracha or hoisin to my broth — so when there’s not enough broth and too much noodle, the result is less impactful.
Open for less than three months, Pho Con Bo is a spacious new pho restaurant serving southern Vietnamese-style pho on the main Bellaire Boulevard drag, with easy parking, high quality meats, and competitive pricing. The service was some of the friendliest I’ve experienced in a pho restaurant, and that made the experience quite enjoyable. While my bowl of pho wasn't a major standout, it was good enough for me to want to go back. Next time, I plan to try their bun bo Hue and their oxtail pho.
Pho Con Bo is located at 11403 Bellaire Boulevard, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.