Pho King Kitchen Brings Soul to Scottsdale
If you’re looking for a serious spot to indulge in traditional Vietnamese food, Pho King Kitchen might not be for you, but it should be your go-to when you are looking for an eclectic, exciting and fun spot for Vietnamese and enticing wackadoodle Asian fusion. Before meeting up with Mike Baum, owner of Pho King Kitchen and Food Truck, I had heard a great deal of buzz about the food. It’s important to note that I am not well-versed in Vietnamese food. Don’t get me wrong, there are an incredible amount of Asian foods that I am in love with, but I am still working through eating all corners of the Earth.
My limited exposure wasn’t a handicap upon walking into Pho King Kitchen. Mike Baum was the perfect restaurant tour guide and quickly earned himself a starring role on my list of favorite Valley food rock stars. We shared a meal and an hour and a half of our day together and I learned that this man has lived a full and interesting life. He is passionate, smart, savvy, incredibly interesting and hilarious.
Mike has been able to parlay all of those character attributes into a clever and sophisticated (while still being a bit wacky) food enterprise. After receiving his MBA from Thunderbird International School of Business, he entered into an economy that was likely the worst that Arizona had seen. He opted for entrepreneurship and launched an off-grid solar company. Before that, he worked in the supplement industry in Colorado. Before that, he worked as a dive-master in the Caribbean. After touching on so many industries, he decided to take the funds from selling his business to purchase a food truck. Since he didn’t have a background in commercial cooking he found a partner and Pho King Kitchen was born.
He made sure to do his research before he hit the streets with the truck. “I talked to some of the OG food truck guys and they said if you really want to succeed in the food truck business you have to do something that no one else is doing, that nobody has the balls to do in a real restaurant. So we did. You know, we started doing Asian-inspired burritos, very different kinds of stir fry and that kind of led us into the menu that we have today. A lot of times people come in here and they expect to find Vietnamese food, like straight up Vietnamese food because Pho is in the name. So when they come in here, they’re like, ‘This is different’ which I think throws people off sometimes.”
Everything Mike and his culinary team is doing at Pho King Kitchen is a little different, in a time where different in not just good, it is great. They have successfully created a menu that is creative, inspired and a little out there, without being unapproachable. The menu features an eclectic fusion of familiar flavors in unconventional delivery systems. Spicy Togarashi French Fries, Sriracha Buffalo Chicken Potsitckers, and their Bahn Mi Burrito are just the tip of the delectable iceberg.
There is a lot of confusion and misconception when someone hears the name of the restaurant. People see the name and automatically assume that it’s a straightforward pho spot. While there are seven different phos on the menu, some of the flavor combinations are anything but conventional. My favorite of the bunch is the Lemongrass Curry Coconut Shrimp ($10). The lemongrass and curry flavors don’t overpower the delicate flavors of the house pho broth. It’s an incredibly comforting, heart-warming dish that you can dress with any number of toppings from their accouterments bar. Sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, green onion, lime and more are waiting for you to dish out in the perfect combination and amount based on your tastes. They also have a phenomenal Medicine Man Pho ($10) that is perfect if you’re feeling a little under the weather.
Pho King Kitchen is so much more than pho, so much more. Their taco menu features five distinct varieties and they all arrive at your table fully dressed and massive. There is a Tempura Tofu Taco ($4) with tender but crispy tofu, an herbaceous Thai basil aioli and pickled root vegetables. The tartness of the surprisingly crisp vegetables paired with the aromatic aioli creates a heady bite, no matter if tofu is your thing or not. If you are in full on carnivore mode, the Pork Taco ($4) is the way to go. This taco is dressed with a mango chili salsa that packs a moderate amount of heat on its own, add that to the spicy nature of the sauce that the pork is dressed in makes for a sturdy taste and heat that gradually builds, bite after bite. (Make sure to keep an eye out for them at the Taco Festival this October!)
If a sandwich is more your speed, you might want to check out their newest menu addition, the Kamikaze Cowboy ($9.50). The name itself lets you know that this is not your ordinary meat and cheese option. It also happens to be Mike Baum’s current favorite. “This one is definitely, I think, my favorite sandwich. We do have the typical Bahn Mi sandwich on here so that goes back to the roots. We try to have some things that if somebody is coming here for straight Vietnamese food, we can point to we have traditional pho and the traditional Bahn Mi sandwich, but this, this is nuts. This is our slow braised brisket with sautéed veggies with a Tennessee Asian barbecue sauce, which is a little bit from my roots, I’m from Nashville, Tennessee originally. It’s got cheese, it’s got bread we bake in house. It’s just nothing but goodness in there.”
The Pho King Kitchen offerings, as a whole, are interesting and unexpected, but beautifully mastered and presented. The restaurant space is colorful and welcoming. As a continuation of offering up the unexpected, you can find a lot of fun and soul here. Once a month they offer a hip-hop night where local street artists come in and create on the patio. A deejay comes in with a complete set-up and you get to immerse yourself in a sea of talent. From the kitchen to the music to the art all around you, there is an immense amount of soul that Pho King Kitchen brings to the area. Mike said, “I like to think that what we’re doing is very different and creative and it’s got some soul. I hope people really catch on to it.”
In a community where new restaurants are popping up every week, all with some similarities, it’s exciting to see and experience something different, soulful and exciting. If you’re looking for something truly different in a sea of cookie cutter corporate restaurants, you need to get out to Pho King Kitchen. Let your expectations of what pho is and what Asian food should be, and prepare to get deliciously funky.
Pho King Kitchen | 8018 E. Thomas Road | Scottsdale | 85251 | 480.947.5100
Fare | Asian Fusion
Atmosphere | Comfortable, friendly neighborhood restaurant
Hours | 11am to 9:30pm on Monday and Tuesday, 11am to 10pm Wednesday and Thursday, 11am to 10:30pm Friday and Saturday, 12pm to 8:30pm Sunday
Prices | $
Parking| Parking lot behind the restaurant
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© Taryn Jeffries 2016