Monster Pho is the latest addition to North Oakland near the 40th Street corridor.

Monster Pho is the latest addition to North Oakland near the 40th Street corridor.

The story: Opened near the new Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, Monster Pho is a new generation of Vietnamese restaurants. The owner, Tee Tran, wanted to open a restaurant serving up traditional family dishes, but with a community feel to draw diners of all backgrounds.

Why I went: This is another new offering that’s within walking distance of my Oakland apartment, so it’s convenient when I’m looking for pho or craving some Vietnamese dishes. Because I live so close, I’ve gone several times for lunch and dinner.

The vibe: A mixed crowd with a lot of hospital workers during the day, and neighborhood residents at dinner. A contemporary space that’s sparsely decorated, the two flat screen TVs on the wall showing sports give Monster Pho a sports bar feel.

The menu: Although pho is in the name, there’s not a large selection of the traditional Vietnamese soup noodles. There’s only three bowls: beef, chicken and vegetable (you can choose between regular or large bowls). But there are a lot of other traditional Vietnamese dishes including crepes and spring rolls, vermicelli noodle dishes, rice dishes and lettuce cups. There’s also a nice selection of drinks, although I thought the iced ginger lemonade ($4) was more lemon than ginger.

I love Thai iced tea ($4) and Monster Pho does a solid version.

I love Thai iced tea ($4) and Monster Pho does a solid version.

My favorite dish: I can’t really name one dish that blew me away where I would order again and again. Everything served up was nice but nothing spectacular, such as the Monster pho combo ($12), which was filled with meatballs, tripe and rare meat, but the broth seemed a bit light, not intense in beef flavor. The vermicelli bowl ($10, I had it with chicken), was a nice order, done fresh.

Insider tip: If you’re thinking of getting the banh mi ($7), the sandwiches in French rolls, split it with a friend or be prepared to bring leftovers home. It’s not clear in the menu, but the order actually comes with two sandwiches, which is actually a lot. The sandwiches are just like the ones you can get in Chinatown, with authentic ingredients and flavors, including the crusty French roll. But remember, you’re getting two!

The last bite: Monster Pho tries to be fun with its name, but they don’t play with the food. Instead, it’s traditional and authentic, although it can sometimes seem a bit sanitized. Service is welcoming but can be neglectful later when it gets busy. Not necessarily breaking new ground, Monster Pho is a convenient, friendly spot if you’re in the neighborhood.

The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps

2-snaps

 

 

The deets: Monster Pho, 3905 Broadway (near 40th), Oakland. PH: 510.788.4459. Open Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Tuesday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.monsterpho.com

Monster Pho on Urbanspoon

Monster Pho Combination, $12, includes meatballs, tripe and rare meat.

Chicken pho (large pictured, $10) had a clean tasting broth but the breast meat strips were dry.

Potstickers ($7) had a nice thin skin but I was thrown a bit by the shine on the skin, which made it seem greasy.

Potstickers ($7) had a nice thin skin but I was thrown a bit by the shine on the skin, which made it seem greasy.

Vermicelli bowl with chicken ($10). The chicken was nicely grilled.

Vermicelli bowl with chicken ($10). The chicken was nicely grilled.

The restaurant's exposed ceiling had an interesting carved outline for the beam.

The restaurant’s exposed ceiling had an interesting carved outline for the beam.

Iced ginger lemonade ($4) was more lemony than ginger.

Iced ginger lemonade ($4) was more lemony than ginger.

Monster Pho Combination ($11) includes meatballs, tripe and rare meat.

Monster Pho Combination ($11) includes meatballs, tripe and rare meat.

Pork bahn mi ($7), one order gives you two sandwiches.

Pork bahn mi ($7), one order gives you two sandwiches.

There are more dessert selections than typical Vietnamese restaurants, including this pandan leaf coconut waffle with ice cream ($7). I was disappointed that the waffle didn't have a crispy edge, almost chewy like frozen waffles.

There are more dessert selections than typical Vietnamese restaurants, including this pandan leaf coconut waffle with ice cream ($7). I was disappointed that the waffle didn’t have a crispy edge,and they were almost chewy like frozen waffles.

 

One Response to A Review of Vietnamese Restaurant Monster Pho in Oakland

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    I was going to say that even in the photo, that waffle looks a little sad. The Viet sandwiches look far better. But wow — two in one order? Yes, presents a bit of a dilemma if you are a light eater and there’s only one of you. LOL

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