My past two weeks have been richly punishing ones. Whereas Thanksgiving requires I assume the role of grown up, and all the assiduous turkey tasks that come along with that, Christmas is a different animal entirely. Yuletide madness coaxes out my inner child, and a worrying greedy one armed with a credit limit at that.
During the last fortnight, there have been cheeses and pate and nog. Myriad boxes of Trader Joe’s items ripped asunder accompanied by clank upon clank of wine bottles bested. Which is nothing to speak of the pork. The fried spam speared with pineapple held aloft while pontificating. The sausage rolls, the scotch eggs, the sausages wrapped snug by bacon. I am the porcine Oppenheimer, shatterer of aorta. My days are now spent alternating between googling the symptoms of gout while performing CPR on the disemboweled bladder of a wine box. Breathe goddamn it, breathe!
If this tale mirrors your own life, you’re undoubtedly now exchanging repentant talk with your serious other. We must do better now that the year is fresh with unspoiled potential. Discussions center around vegetables and Roth IRA plans. It’s frightful stuff, enough to send you back under the duvet with that half-eaten box of After Eights. Before that particular allure captures you entirely, let me give you hope. Here’s one way to slide back into a more nutritionally acceptable way of life, and not have to gripe about it.
While not a new restaurant, I only stopped by Pho 777 for the first time in 2022, and I’m quite gruntled (it’s a word!) I did. The restaurant can be found just off Redwood (1835 W 3600 S) opposite the Southeast Asian market, Kim Heang. The menu is a compendium of more than a hundred options and our initial trip suggested this might be overreach. The first item we selected was out of stock.
Thankfully it was also this visit where I sampled 777’s bo luc lac, AKA shaking beef ($18.50). If you’re looking to get your bestie hooked on Vietnamese cuisine in one mouthful, this is the gateway drug. Tender pieces of filet mignon are cooked with the unmistakable fingerprints of vigorous wok hei – flecks of brisk char coat the beef which yields to a ruby interior. It’s a deceptively nuanced balance, a motif you’ll encounter again and again here. The rapidly composed dish is finished with onions in a sweet and salty mix of soy and oyster sauce. Priced under twenty bucks it’s a generous serving, and based on this dish alone I return time and again throughout the year.
At some point during these visits, I muse on the noodle house name and resolve to investigate. This is why I randomly chose the ap chao chap nam ($15.50), the combination house special noodle. Flat rice noodles are somehow amalgamated into a pancake, and fried to a golden brown finish. The fritter is topped with a melange of veg, meat, and seafood in a light brown gravy. The pancake is a textural marvel, alternating bites of crisp and chew. I can’t immediately think of a culinary corollary and have to hit Google for some ap chao 101; which apparently means both pan-fried and sautéed, explaining the uniquely contrasting finish. Doubly surprising to me is that the dish doesn’t seem to use flour, it’s deft skills applied to a packet of rice noodles. It’s a first for me, but a word to the wise – eat this one hot. Leftovers pulled from the fridge later in the evening are nothing but soggy regret.
The centerpiece of the menu is undoubtedly the pho – the famed Vietnamese soup noodle dish responsible for a litany of dad puns. The broth at Pho 777 is as good as any I’ve had in town (the inimitable Pho King agrees). Rendered fat shimmers gossamer-like on the surface, and spices like cardamom and cinnamon lurk. A notable pho broth is a beguiling concoction, with clean and light flavors betraying the complexity of their preparation. I believe this video on the P777 Instagram shows some of that particular magic in action.
To that bubbling broth go rice noodles and a selection of meats and proteins – your choice of course. Pho 777 offers up to fifteen different combinations, from oxtail to tendon to tofu. I go with rare beef and brisket ($12.50) bolstered by a bobble of meatballs ($4.00) for good measure. On the side, it’s a farmer’s market of basil, onions, crisp beansprouts, and sliced jalapeño. There’s even cilantro extranjero among the herbaceous pile. I don’t think I’ve seen the leafy green at any other Pho joint in town. Hoisin and chili oil also come on the side. From there it’s all on you chef, build the bowl of your dreams however you please. I should note that Pho 777’s chili oil is potent stuff but I will neither confirm nor deny the debilitatingly molten results of deploying a full tub to your pho.
The restaurant is a snug space, barely more than a half dozen tables and booths. And from what I’ve heard, the place fills up quickly and closes surprisingly early. With that in mind, many of my meals from Pho 777 have been enjoyed to go. It’s here that I find myself always giving extra credit to restaurants that go that extra mile. Take the pho for example, provided broth comes thoughtfully packed separately from the raw beef and veggies. It’s one of many small touches that in aggregate exude quality and pride.
Despite pleas from loyalists to keep this one under the relative radar, it’s my duty to share for those yet to stumble over Pho 777’s refreshingly enlivening charms. After all, it’s either this or the treadmill right?
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Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC. I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have written in myopic detail about the Salt Lake City dining scene for the better part of seventeen years.
I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV. Pause those credits, yep, that’s me! I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”.
Want to know more? This is why I am the way I am.
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