Warm Bowls Make Warm Souls at Pho Dakao


Craig Salois

Pho Dakao offers many kinds of pho. Each bowl of pho comes with a side of bean sprouts, basil, and jalapeños that allows you to customize your meal to your tastes.

Remember being sick as a child, sitting in bed, and getting fed hot chicken noodle soup in the hopes that you would get better? Framingham’s Pho (“fuh”) Dakao can be your greatest ally whether you’re not feeling your best or just want to take your taste buds on a joy ride.

The Vietnamese restaurant with subtle hints of French cuisine sprinkled in that does everything just right.

In its most basic sense, Pho is noodles, broth, and meat/vegetables. It is really up to the restaurant to determine the direction they take pho. I can see the French cuisine influences with things like pot-au-feu in the meat-based broth along with vegetables. The cooks of Vietnam do not copy French cooking; they take the basic ideas and run with them, adding herbs, spices, and citrus to take it a step above french soups.

Before the food even comes out, the atmosphere inside Pho Dakao is probably the first thing to notice. The design is simple yet does not bore. The separation between tables is far enough that you don’t feel like you hear what everyone else is saying, but at the same time, the feel of a lively restaurant is still there.

If I had one word to describe my time inside Pho Dakao, it would be “aromatic.” It’s not just the food you experience; the smells of everyone else’s meals make you question if you ordered the right thing.

Now the food itself. I personally ordered two items from the menu, Pho Gà, and Mongolian Beef. Pho Gà is pho soup with chicken. The broth is probably the most notable feature of the dish. The beef broth simmers for hours before being served, letting hints of spices like basil, clove, and chiles catch you by surprise. The chicken, combined with rice noodles and toppings like bean sprouts, lime, and jalapeno, creates a dish that satisfies every craving.

Along with the Pho Gà, the Mongolian Beef came out on a sizzling skillet. The stir-fried sirloin was accompanied by onions, scallions, and ginger. The sauce on the beef turned this dish from pretty good to great. It seemed like some kind of seafood sauce with just the right amount of sweetness.

An important aspect of any restaurant is the service, and the employees of Pho Dakao help make it an enjoyable experience. They make you feel like a member of their community by sharing their style of cooking with you. Unlike some high-end restaurants, they’re not showing off extravagant tricks like cutting melted cheese off a cheese wheel onto your pasta.

The menu, although quite large, with four pages back and front, is not overwhelming. A lot of the menu items are very similar, with slight variations in the spices or meat used.

Pho Dakao offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, and the wait staff is cautious about allergies. As a person with food allergies, I found this reassuring I would probably stay clear if you are vegan, as the menu does not offer vegan options.

For all this good talk about Pho Dakao, how much is it going to cost? Well, it’s not going to run your pockets deep. $13 for a good-sized bowl of pho densely packed to the brim with vegetables, noodles, meat, and broth is worth it. The non-soup-based entrees are usually in the $17-$23 range but, again, very much worth the price.

Pho Dakao is a must visit. No matter what you eat, a feeling of warmth encapsulates you. For the small number of simple ingredients, each meal has a different taste that is enjoyable in its own distinct way.