The holiday season's winding down and there are plenty of new sights and eats to check out in the upcoming new year! My family and I are always willing to try anything new and, when it comes to food, looking to expand our palates! Enter Ox Pho & Grill, a new(er) Vietnamese restaurant in Federal Way, WA - a suburb just 30 minutes south of Seattle.
We have been wanting to eat here ever since we first heard about it a few months ago from one of our cousins - well, technically, he's my husband's cousin's husband (confusing?) - he and his sister opened up this restaurant together. The fare has that Vietnamese-American fusion going on without straying too far from its roots - food is solely Vietnamese with a twist, if you will.
My husband's brother and wife were one of the firsts in our family to dine there as we, unfortunately, weren't able to join. Fast forward a few months later, both of our families decided to head over for the heck of it (not to mention the restaurant is probably about 15 minutes away from their house)!
Location & Parking
Tucked away in a plaza located in Federal Way amongst many Korean restaurants and businesses, you'd have to kind of look for it when driving there since it's not obvious from the highway. Once you find it, you'll see there's a small parking lot dedicated to the restaurant just outside its front entrance. Otherwise, you'll need to find a space around the plaza which, shouldn't be too difficult (if it's not busy).
Upon arriving, you'll notice that the landscaping is fairly simple and minimalist, just like its interior. Its double doors are already open, warmly inviting you in.
Interior and Ambiance
If you know me well enough or have been following me on any of my social medias, you'll know that I am always down for interiors that "speak" to me.
The immediate vibe I felt as soon as I passed through the double doors was "Urban Vietnam" - I don't know how else to describe it. NOT that I've ever been to my husband's homeland but there are some items native to the country or seen pretty much everywhere in the more crowded areas - at least from what it looked like in the movies or TV shows I've seen set in, say, Saigon. HAHA
The colors of black and white rang true inside as much as the outside with yellow and green tones giving the space some color. I've been in other Vietnamese restaurants where colors were a lot more bright or done up in "lucky" colors - yellowish gold and crimson red. This space, however, strayed from what some may expect color-wise yet done tastefully.
The ambiance of the restaurant had a more casual vibe. This is not to say you should just walk in sportin' your "home" clothes (though, I'm sure some may have) but I'd dress decently - like I was approachable. LOL! No need to dress to the nines either but I'm sure that wouldn't be an issue (remember the days when you and a whole group of your friends in high school would be in your homecoming dresses and tuxes and dine at the local Denny's?).
Appetizer and Small Plates
I needed a little bit of help in this section...since I didn't personally eat all of these dishes, I asked my husband and sister-in-law to add their two cents while I add a bit of my impressions as well.
Immediately, you'll notice that the menu isn't inundated with hundreds of dishes but there's enough there to give you choices. Ordering spring rolls and chicken wings to start is a given for us especially when dining at a Vietnamese restaurant so this is exactly what we did.
*Please note the description in the parentheses were straight from the restaurant's menu.
Appetizer: Nem Nuong Spring Rolls, $6.95 (*grilled pork patty, lettuce, cilantro, basil, cucumber, crispy wonton, pickled daikon, and carrots serviced in a rice paper and house special sauce)
-This was so good and a hit with us - especially the kids. As with any Vietnamese spring roll, the wrap and noodles provided a very clean taste while the patty and won ton wrap gave the dish some substance. It helps that we all love spring rolls, too, but anything different from the usual shrimp and pork spring roll combo is appreciated by our family and always ready to be devoured.
Small Plate: Spicy Garlic Chicken Wings, $8.95 (*crispy battered wings with sweet onions, garlic, and jalapenos)
- You pretty much can't go wrong with chicken wings (also it was a given that my brother-in-law would order since he has a strong love affair with chicken wings like no other)! Although this particular dish is considered a "small plate," there's enough to share - there were 6 of us - excluding my baby nephew, of course. You could taste the garlic in this dish but it was pleasantly light and the chicken had a good crunch to it!
Entrees served were good-sized portions and weren't pricey at all. For this particular blog, I only focused on the dishes that were a bit different from the usual Pho soup served in most Vietnamese restaurants. My brother-in-law and kids all ordered pho so I chose not to include their dishes. But, if you're curious, I can report that they all thought their soups were tasty!
The 1st dish featured below is their Oxtail Pho Noodle Soup, $13.95 (*tendered meat fall off the bone, available in Large bowl only)
- Since this was technically my husband's order, I can't really tell you how this dish tasted. However, asking my husband (a man of FEW words), he tells me, "It's good." Ummm ok?? So I had to get him talking by asking him a few questions. From my observation, this was a generously sized bowl and the meat (on the bone) were humongous! It looked as though the meat would be on the tougher side due to their size but, as it says in the dish description, it was tender. "Tender, flavorful, and warms the stomach" as my husband finally concluded after I had grilled him. SHEESH!
This next dish, again, wasn't mine but ordered by my sister-in-law. She had the Bo Ne, $13.95 (*tender filet mignon, caramelized onions, sunny-side up egg and pate served on a sizzling plate with a hot, French baguette).
Needless to say, her description of her dish was a lot more... shall I say...articulate. In her words..."The Bo Ne was a nice change of pace from the usual pho, vermicelli bowls, and rice plates found in many Vietnamese restaurants. The steak was flavorful being paired with a sunny-side up egg and pate making for a nice bite with the banh mi (baguette). I do prefer my breads to be a bit more toasted so that is the only thing I would change. This is my 'go-to' dish for sure."
From my point of view, the presentation was pleasing and smelled amazing. Will definitely try it out the next time I visit.
For this 3rd dish, I am able to offer my honest opinion. I ordered the Braised Beef Curry, which, I don't believe was on their regular menu but I think I saw it as a special (perhaps it was a separate page added on?). Unfortunately, I don't have the exact price but I am almost sure it didn't cost over $15. This is the traditional Vietnamese curry but garnished with fried potato medallions and a sprig of basil. I had the choice of ordering this with jasmine rice or a French baguette. I was particularly starving that evening and ordered the rice (which, I'd later regret).
Most Vietnamese curries I've eaten are on the oilier side and it's one of those comfort foods that "hits the spot." The beef in the curry was so tender and tasty, I ate slower just to savor each bite. I actually ate bits of the basil leaves to cleanse my palate in between each spoonful. The rice was good but I don't think I'd have it with the curry again. My husband warned me to order the bread...he said, "Mari, that's why we have curry with bread because it soaks up the extra oil." NOTE TAKEN. Yeah, I should've listened because the rice didn't soak up enough of it. I didn't eat much of the potato medallions as they'd lost their crisp. I figured these were there to help add a little aesthetic.
My sister-in-law (like my hubs) has a sweet tooth so she took the liberty of ordering two desserts we could try and I'm glad she did! We don't always have dessert when we go out as a family (and, if we do, we usually order one dish for all of us to share) since we're already so stuffed.
Dessert No.1: Mini Doughnuts, $4.95 (*fresh, hot sugared donuts served with a decadent dark chocolate sauce)
- Normally, when I pick a donut out of those variety boxes, I choose one of 3 types: chocolate, plain, or sugared. This dish had the best of all 3! These were lightly sugared (almost plain in my book) and could be dipped in the chocolatey goodness it came with. My husband and kids all love donuts so it was an automatic win for them.
Dessert No.2: Fried Banana with Ice Cream, $5.95 (*sweet banana, a hint of cinnamon rolled and fried to crisp perfection and served with vanilla ice cream)
- Bananas fried in eggroll wraps? Umm YUM!!! Although it's not the healthiest way to prepare a banana it, yes, hit the spot! The plain vanilla ice cream paired perfectly with this sweet yet savory goodness! Again, it wasn't too sweet (which is perfect for us) and it's best to share with a friend or two.
We would certainly dine here again and I'm not saying this because one of the owners is part of our family - although, it does help and we're all about supporting our family and their endeavors. :-P
The food is tasty, the restaurant is stylish (and, importantly, clean), and the service was good! If you're ever in the Federal Way area, check this place out and let me know what you think!
You can find Ox Pho & Grill here: 31406 Pacific Hwy S, Federal Way, WA 98003
~ XOXO, Mari
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