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Pho Sur: Vietnamese and Asian fusion

Tempo food reviewers adhere to the adage "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

After an abysmal experience last year at Panda House in Phoenix, I refrained from reviewing the establishment.

So when my husband, Sean, and I pulled up to Pho Sur, the new tenant of Suite A in the Phoenix strip mall behind Jack in the Box, I recognized the location and voiced my doubts. However, two fellow reporters had touted the new restaurant's merit, so I decided to go forward with the review. After a delicious meal, I was glad I hadn't been swayed by my original suspicions.

Jia Qing "Jack" Wu, who owns G Street Bar & Grill and Hunan Garden in Grants Pass, debuted Pho Sur in September in Grants Pass. He expanded to the Phoenix location in November and has plans to open two more branches in Ashland and Medford or Eagle Point.

Kanchalee Kanjanakaset manages the Phoenix branch. She previously worked at Lemon Grass in Medford and House of Thai in Ashland.

Kanjanakaset says the idea behind the restaurant was to ease Vietnamese cuisine onto Southern Oregon palates. However, the restaurant's fare is not strictly Vietnamese.

The menu is arranged by various Asian ethnicities, including Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Appetizers and entrees all are reasonably priced around $8 with the exception of seafood, which is a few dollars more.

When Sean and I arrived, the restaurant was almost empty, but over the course of the evening, several other parties filtered in. We seated ourselves at a table near a small fireplace insert that gave off the illusion of heat. The walls are painted a striking red set off by black furnishings, abstract paintings, bamboo shoots and orchids.

For starters, Sean and I ordered a pot of tea and steamed pork cake. It took us longer to peruse the 40-some entrees available.

Pho Sur's specialty undoubtedly is its namesake, pho, a type of Vietnamese noodle soup. The restaurant offers six meat versions and one vegetarian, all served in an aromatic broth infused with star anise, cinnamon and ginger. Bean sprouts, jalapenos and Thai basil are served on the side, allowing diners to customize dishes to their tastes.

I resisted the urge to settle for my usual curry or pad Thai and instead ordered Japanese fried noodles, or yakisoba. Sean ordered a beef, garlic and ginger stir-fry.

The steamed pork cake was served in thin slices on a bed of winter greens. The pork had a spongy texture similar to tofu that was enlivened by the sweet, housemade hoison sauce.

My meal arrived a few minutes before Sean's, giving us time to admire the presentation. The wheat noodles were mixed with green peppers, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli and wedges of onion, as well as perfectly singed pieces of chicken. The dish was infused with the sweet and salty Pho Sur yakisoba sauce, similar to oyster sauce, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. All entrees were served in shallow, white bowls

Sean's meal featured a similar vegetable medley and strips of beef doused in a garlic-ginger sauce. The stir-fry had more zest than my dish, which could, in part, be attributed to the garnish of lemon grass. Two balls of white rice were served on the side. Brown rice also is available for no extra charge.

We managed to finish both of our entrees and accepted a dessert menu. At Kanjanakaset's recommendation, we decided to share mango pudding ($4). The dessert was served chilled in a long-stemmed glass and topped with whipped cream. The silky texture was studded with pieces of fresh mango.

Next time, we'll order two — for sure.

— Teresa Thomas