Fast and Fresh: Pho 99

Pho 99 (12002 Veterans Memorial) sits in one of the many unassuming shopping centers along Veterans Memorial. To be completely honest, we were a bit hesitant when we pulled up to the restaurant. Did we have a greasy, stomach ache-inducing lunch in store for us? We walked in to find a friendly staff, almost sterile-clean restaurant, and lots of people on their lunch break. Our hesitation quickly turned to excitement.

We ordered the spring rolls; pho with meatballs and brisket; and vermicelli with grilled shrimp, pork and egg rolls. The entire meal cost about $16, and we had food left over. All the portions are large at Pho 99. If you aren't famished, opt for an order of spring rolls and split an entrée.

The soft spring rolls pack a lot of flavor, with a shrimp, pork, mint and vermicelli filling. A lot of places overstuff their soft spring rolls with too much vermicelli or lettuce, resulting in a gooey, flavorless rice paper roll. Pho 99's version proves that spring rolls aren't just a vehicle for peanut sauce anymore.

We were equally pleased with the entrees. Despite the size, we couldn't stop eating until we were pretty sure the button on our jeans was going to pop. The vermicelli bowl was a healthy mix of nicely grilled shrimp, pork and sinfully fried egg roll bites. The meatballs in the pho were surprisingly good, but the brisket was our favorite. Pho 99 has three levels of pho - "Beginners," "Regular" and "Adventurer's Choice." If you aren't a fan of fatty meat, tendon or tripe, don't worry. You can stick with the beginners' pho with lean, tender cuts of beef, like we did.

Pho 99 delivers fast, fresh and authentic Vietnamese food to North Houston residents every day except Tuesdays.

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Jane Catherine Collins