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Pho 84

February 4, 2006

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Pho 84 happens to be one of Short Exact’s very favorite Vietnamese restaurants in the Bay Area, and so when we happened to be in Oakland one night, we jumped at a chance to finally write an entry for it. Tucked away on a cozy tree-lined stretch of 17th Street in Downtown Oakland’s emerging Uptown District, Pho 84 has for years now consistently served delicious, well-prepared dishes that make the tongue swoon and the taste buds soar. Lines reliably develop outside the restaurant on any given meal of the week, but it’s worth the wait: your patience will be rewarded. On many different occasions, Short Exact has had all sorts of dishes at Pho 84: curries, noodle bowls, rice plates – and not one dish has been anything less than wholly satisfying. The ingredients are fresh, and the composition of each dish is well-planned. Preparations are subtle, peanut sauces are deep and rich, and curries are full of just the right flavors. On our last visit, Short Exact ordered a classic item, the bahn hoi tom nuong,

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marinated grilled prawns over a bed of fine vermicelli. Too often this dish is served with bland, uninspired nuoc cham, but Pho 84 prepares the dish with an intriguing nuoc cham that delicately balances sweet and sour flavors in a way that perfectly complements the taste of the prawns. The whole dish, which is simplistic in concept, immensely benefits from this of sort of subtlety.

Ironically, the pho here is actually one of the weaker points. It’s definitely decent, but we can’t recommend Pho 84’s pho as wholeheartedly we could the pho at other establishments who essentially serve only pho. Pho 84 has a broad menu, though, and it does a great job with almost all of it.

Although mayor Jerry Brown seems to have developed quite a fixation on Le Cheval as the epitome of Vietnamese cuisine downtown, Pho 84 is truly the superior of these two eateries – though Le Cheval is quite good, and will hopefully one day have its own Short Exact entry. Pho 84 is a special place, though. It’s exactly the sort of Vietnamese joint you wish was in your neighborhood, and Uptown is lucky to have it. So go on: close this browser window, hop on BART, and enjoy the diverse, delicious flavors that Pho 84 has to offer.

RATING:

COST:

354 17th Street (near Webster St.)
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510.832.1338
Hours: Monday-Friday 11:00 am-3:00 pm; Saturday 12:00 pm-9:00 pm; Sunday 5:00 pm-9:00 pm.

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Neighborhood: Downtown Oakland

How to get there: Pho 84 is easily accessible via AC Transit lines 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 40, 43, 51, 59, 72, N, and NL. For BART riders, the 19 Street Broadway station is just a couple blocks away.

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