New (and new-ish) Reno restaurants for fall 2016 Johnathan L. Wright/RGJ
THE PLACE: Reno might be Artown in July, but it’s pho-town all year round. You can’t swing a rice noodle, it seems, without hitting a spot that serves this essential Vietnamese noodle soup. As of mid-October, you can add 999 Pho to the ranks of purveyors.
Address: 2309 Kietzke Lane, in the Franktown Corners center
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
What’s $10 or less: Everything but three special salads
THE LOOK: The restaurant occupies a space in Franktown Corners on Kietzke Lane, the same space that once housed Viaggio back in the day (and, much later, Paulie’s Pizza).
At 999 Pho (repeating numbers are considered auspicious), the food is the point, so the look is serviceable: a counter and small dining area to the left of the entrance, a larger dining room ahead and the kitchen beyond.
That said, the walls are painted appealing color that falls somewhere between light gray and sea foam. The color reminds me of a cocktail — a faded brocade — that I once used to drink.
THE MEAL: After a flurry of texts about the name of the restaurant and its location, a friend and I drop by for lunch earlier this week. The place has only been open a week, but it’s packed, including a large table filled with out-of-town friends of the owners.
Vietnamese summer rolls touch down first. Instead of the usual shrimp and shredded iceberg, the rice sheets embrace frilly folds of leaf lettuce and something the menu calls “grill pork paste.” It’s actually slices from a grilled pork loaf (or meatball), gently sweet, a hint of char.
The peanut sauce accompanying the rolls is looser in style, so it really soaks into our hand-held salads. Good, very good.
At a pho restaurant, pho duty is mandatory; my friend willingly accepts her commission (with orders to share). Her No. 19 is chockablock with tofu and crisp carrots, bok choy and broccoli.
The broth is nicely balanced, with a faint hum of rock sugar in the background. It’s the kind of broth you almost don’t want to hit with spurts of sriracha and hoisin (though my friend does all the same).
I opt for a classic snarl of rice noodles topped by charbroiled pork, lightly sweet. The kitchen at 999 Pho leaves dressing the noodles to the diner, so I douse them with fish sauce and a few lashings of sriracha.
KUDOS: Even with a full house and half staff, service is truly friendly and fairly quick. The pho broth is well crafted. And those grilled pork summer rolls are my new favorite version.
QUIBBLES: Not a quibble but an FYI: This restaurant looks like it’s going to be popular, so plan accordingly.
ALTERNATIVES: Banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches, egg noodle soups with shrimp or won tons, rice noodles with beef and lemongrass, fried rice dishes, stir-frys, and dramatic Vietnamese crêpes.
RETURN TRIP?: SO soon.