Food courts are awful. They always have the same collection of eateries you have only ever seen in other food courts, usually with food dumbed down for average American tastes. One afternoon I accepted a sample of chicken from each of three vendors, only to discover that the chicken teriyaki, bourbon chicken, and chicken curry all tasted the same.
Boston has one exception to this sad state of affairs, located at the far end of Commonwealth Avenue near the Allston border: the food court at the Super 88 Asian Supermarket. The 88 is a subject for a post of it’s own, but its front is wrapped with a series of food stalls reminiscent of the hawker centers in Singapore. You can eat Thai, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and even Indian food, yet I always gravitate to Pho Viet, some of the best and most inexpensive Vietnamese food I’ve eaten.
I usually have a huge bowl of the pho dac biet: “special beef noodle soup with slices of rare steak, well done flank, brisket, tendon & tripe.” It comes with a side of bean sprouts, Asian basil, green chiles, and lime, all of which I dump into the bowl. It’s perfect on a freezing winter day.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had the soup, so tonight I decided to try something different, which seemed to be the next most popular item on the menu – grilled short ribs with steamed rice:
Thin cross-cut short ribs, marinated in a sweet soy glaze, are grilled to crisp the edges and served over simple steamed short-grain rice. Enough of the glaze drips off the ribs to infuse the rice, but I added some more soy to cut some of the sweetness. There’s a salad of cucumber, lettuce, and pickled carrots and radish (and some sad winter tomato slices, the only off note). It may not look like much in its foam takeout box (the only dishes for eating in are the pho bowls), but it had the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spicy. There’s also the great tactile component of having to pick up each piece to tear the meat off the little bones.
Another ideal winter evening meal. Add a citrus honey boba tea from the Lollicup stall to the right, and you get a full dinner for only ten bucks. If the place was any closer I’d probably eat there once a week.