Evening restaurant review
I will be frank and admit we don’t normally travel too far west when deciding where to dine out. Not by design or reason mind you, more due to lazyness. We constantly intend to try the array of food available on the west side of the valley, but always seem to gravitate towards venues closer to home.
Recently, however, I started to hear lots of good things about a new restaurant out in West Valley City, Pho Green Papaya. A quick google threw up virtually no information. Feedback from site visitors seemed to suggest something good was afoot. I was compelled to investigate.
Pho Green Papaya lies on the edge of the crazily busy 35th South, just before I215. Housed in what I believe was a former Mexican eatery. The uninspiring ubiquitously-designed standalone building at first gave me cause for concern. On venturing inside, my worries were immediately blown away.
As we were greeted by a friendly waitress and led to our table, it became clear the owners have invested heavily in the restaurant. Bold red and black colors permeate throughout, with subtle Asian adornments on the walls. Slightly elevated booths line the restaurant edges, a mix of tables fill out the floor space. The restaurant has a slightly upscale ambiance, but maintains a comfortable relaxing feel at the same time.
Things started off superbly as our waitress led our dining guests (including slightly less ethnic cuisine experienced in-laws) through the menu in meticulous detail. She expertly covered the more popular dishes, taking time and care to answer a slew of questions. Whilst we digested the menu (a mix of Thai and Vietnamese) our drink orders arrived.
Worthy of note, my father-in-law ordered a thai-iced tea, a steal at $2.50. Heck I have seen similar (and less tasty!) drinks at other restaurants in the valley for close to $7. The drink was passed around the table to oohs and ahhs.
I opted for the “Jasmine Pearls” tea ($2.95), which arrived in a satisfyingly heavy teapot, with an equally serious accompanying metal trivet. I smiled with glee. It is always the small things that make me happy. Again it was apparent the owners had invested some serious time and effort in ensuring everything was spot on. I knew I was in for a good meal.
We decided to share a mix of the appetizers, starting with the Crispy Spring Rolls ($3.95):
A mix of pork, mushroom, tofu, taro and carrot served with a side of standard sweet chilli sauce. Whilst not the most exotic item, the rolls were delicious. They were a simple item done perfectly. I’m not sure on all the ingredients but there was a definite X factor that I couldn’t quite place. Between the four of us, they lasted mere seconds.
Up next was the Chicken Satay ($3.95):
Again, there were perfectly done. Grilled skewers of chicken with an accompanying peanut sauce. Indeed the sauce was much better than the standard peanut butter-esque affair of most places. It had a very appealing spice kick.
As our waittress described the Fried Quail ($4.50) earlier to my in-laws as “if your feeling a little more adventurous then try the quail”, I couldn’t really help myself to try an order:
Glazed in honey, soy, star anise and garlic, it was definitely more exotic than the spring rolls or grilled chicken. The seasoning was a perfect match for the well-cooked and the earthy-tasting quail. My only problem was with the fiddly nature of eating quail, a touch cumbersome with all the tiny little bones. Both Wendi and my mother in-law looked on in horror as myself and my father-in-law deconstructed the miniature fowl.
As we waited for our entrees, we watched as the restaurant filled with evening diners. I was surprised by how popular the restaurant had seemingly become already (it opened only just before Xmas 2007). Our waitress had explained earlier that they were doing great business at lunchtimes and were now building up their dinner menu/service.
As we less than covertly watched everyone else, it soon became apparent that the star attraction is the Pho (priced at a wallet-friendly $5.95 and $6.95 for regular and large portions respectively). All told, the menu had 15 Pho options, each a varying mix of beef (brisket, flank, eye of round, tendon, tripe and meatballs), noodles and fresh vegetables. For the tripe-fearful (like my mother-in-law), half of the selections are tripe-free. There is even a chicken version and smaller child friendly-sized Pho ($4.50).
The first of our entrees to arrive was the the Stir Fried Chicken ($8.95):
Reminiscent of the Thai dish Pad Ga Prow, this dish was chicken stir fried with garlic, sweet basil, shallots, black pepper and soy. Flavorsome and highly addictive, it was an excellent dish enjoyed by everyone.
Next was the Chicken Pad Thai ($7.95):
The classic Thai dish of stir fried noodles with egg, beansprouts and scallions, topped with peanuts was not terribly exciting, but Wendi deemed it as good as any she had tried previously.
I ordered the Sea Bass ($9.95):
The menu describes this as simmered in a clay pot with garlic, shallot, caramel palm sugar & house special spices. It came to the table red-hot sizzling accompanied by a plate of fresh (dipping) vegetables. Opening up the pot released a world of aroma. Tender chunks of sea-bass coated in an oh-so-rich caramel sauce. My only gripe was the odd bone one had to watch out for. That said, this dish was wonderful.
Finally Wendi opted for the Chicken Panang Curry ($8.95):
This dish is a fiery coconut milk-based curry. Another hit of the table, it consisted of tender chunks of chicken breast bathed in a spicy red curry. We also had a family-style serving of Jasmine rice, quite generous in size.
Throughout the meal, our waitress checked in intermittently. Tea and water were quickly refilled when needed, and plates removed without fuss when cleared. I could not fault the service from start to finish, indeed I cannot really find fault with anything at Pho Green Papaya. Food, service, ambience were all excellent. Beer should be on the menu just as soon as their liquor license comes through; which I am told was held up by the beers they want to offer being on the strong side (Sapporo, Saigon, Singha).
Also worthy of note are the prices. Our bill came to an almost embarrasingly cheap $54, I must admit I did check that nothing had been left off. Three appetizers, jasmine tea, thai-iced tea, four large entrees and a bowl of steaming hot jasmine rice. One of the best value meals I have enjoyed in quite some time. Based on this meal, our long standing lazyness which has prevented us from dining on the west-side is now a thing of the past.
Next time, we will be back to try the Pho. If you do go and try it, let us know how you find it!
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I am not aware of a website for Pho Green Papaya, it is located at 1980 W 3500 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84119
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.