If you’re thinking to yourself that the bowl above looks more like Oxtail Soup than Pho, you’re right! It is indeed Oxtail Soup. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to find in a Pho Restaurant, as both dishes have a lot in common at its core. The most obvious of course is the savory, yet silky beef broth brought upon from the marrow of beef bones simmered for hours, along with the distinct zest of star anise and aromatic bite of ginger.
The reason I find myself at Pho Bistro 2 for Oxtail Soup, is one of our vendors at my workplace HIGHLY recommended I try theirs after reading my review of that which is offered at Asahi Grill, the current Honolulu-based hub of Kapiolani Coffee Shop (their namesake restaurant is located in Waimalu Shopping Center). If you never heard of Kapiolani Coffee Shop, well then you probably don’t know what local style Oxtail Soup is all about to begin with, so never mind. lol
So where is Pho Bistro 2? It’s in a tiny strip mall on the upper mauka side of Kalakaua avenue (not in Waikiki). The restaurant front itself is around the corner on Fern street, a bit out of view from the main drag, so you can easily miss it if you’re not look looking for it. Fern street is just a short block down from Makaloa street (where Don Quijote and Palama Market on the corner is) if you’re headed towards Waikiki on Kalakaua. Passing or coming from Makaloa on Kalakaua heading towards Waikiki, hang a left at the next light and you’re there.
There are two 1-hour limit stalls right in front of the restaurant, as well as quite a few customer stalls on the side of the building on Fern street.
Like many hole-in-the-walls, Pho Bistro 2’s dining room is deceptively roomy and spread out more than you’d expect judging from the outside…
It’s a very simple, clean, cozy and comfortable ambiance.
Shoyu, Hoisin sauce and all the hot sauces one could wish for are right at your disposal in the condiment station at each table…
O.K., let’s get right to it and see what’s on the menu…
As you see, prices are VERY, VERY reasonable here, which seems to be the norm for most Vietnamese restaurants in Honolulu.
I was a little disappointed they didn’t have those Vietnamese style stuffed pork chicken wings on the appetizer menu like they do at Bac Nam, but that’s O.K.. As mentioned earlier, I was here primarily for one thing and one thing only, which I’ll get into detail later.
For starters, my girlfriend and I shared a platter of the Spring Rolls (Cha Gio)…
The Vietnamese way to eat spring rolls is to dip the spring roll, accompanying Vermicelli noodles and shredded carrots n’ cut cucumbers in the sweet and sour sauce, then simply wrap it with the fresh lettuce and enjoy…
Wrapped up like this, juss’ whack ’em…
Mmmmmm, these Vietnamese Spring Rolls are sooooo goooooood! Winnah! Our server told us there’s Taro in the mixture, which takes them longer to cook. Whatever is in the filling, it’s absolutely, outrageously DELICIOUS. Solid 5 SPAM Musubi for this dish. Spring Rolls just don’t get better than this.
Now for the main course, my girlfriend wasn’t sure which one to choose from the Rice Dishes menu: Pork? Chicken? Or Beef? So she decided to get the Combo, which is pretty much a no-brainer considering for just $1.50 more you get to try all three. Here’s the Combo…
The Com Dac Biet is described as: Combination of Beef Short Ribs, Grilled Chicken and Special Marinated Pork Chop served with rice (which is the more aromatic Jasmine Rice).
The beef and pork was the winner in this spread. Char-grilled (not griddle-topped) to perfection. Each one had a hint of lem0ngrass in its herbal profile, while the beef short ribs had an almost Teriyaki style flavor to it (sweetened shoyu), although not exactly. Certainly more Vietnamese. The chicken was pretty good, but if in doubt, get the beef or pork. WINNER.
With that, my girlfriend gives this plate a solid 4 SPAM Musubi (could have been 5 if the chicken was more to her liking).
Last but not least we have my Oxtail Soup…
Pho Bistro 2 – Oxtail Soup with substitute Pho Noodles on the side intead of Rice, 11.95 + 1.50 for Pho Noodles (what a deal!)
Diner WG, the person who referred me to this place, suggested I try the Oxtail Soup with Pho noodles on the side instead, so that’s what I did.
Let’s have a closer look at the Oxtail Soup…
This GIGANTIC bowl of soup was just TEAMING with thick, meaty Oxtails…
When I stuck my spoon in the bowl to fish what’s inside, I could barely swish it around, as Oxtail after Oxtail got in its way. Nice!
After it was all said and done, I counted six of ”em. Most on the bigger side, with the two on top here about as big as the profile of a rolled-up fist. WOW!
Setting Pho Bistro’s Oxtail Soup apart from Asahi Grill, they load it with generous amounts of chopped mustard cabbage…
Also unlike Asahi Grill (Kapiolani Coffee Shop), Pho Bistro’s Oxtail Soup includes generous slices of Shiitake Mushrooms…
While going back to classic protocol, Pho Bistro’s Oxtail Soup is loaded with peanuts…
For garnish, it’s finished with several thin-sliced decorative carrots, chopped Chinese Parsley (Cilantro) and a generous heap of fresh ginger in the middle.
Of course the best part is taking this…
…and with whatever you can hold on to with your chopsticks of these fall-off-the-bone tender morsels of beef oxtail, dip it in the grated ginger and shoyu sauce…
Tender oxtails dipped in fresh grated ginger and shoyu
Tender oxtails dipped in fresh grated ginger and shoyu
Brah! I tell you, this has got to be one of THE GREATEST BEEF DISHES in the WORLD. Period. Arguably better than STEAK. The infusion of the marrow and star anise-infused broth into the fall-off-the-oxtail bone tender beef, along with the intensely flavored fresh grated ginger and shoyu mixture is another one of those “Marriages made in Heaven”.
Pho Bistro 2 absolutely NAILS IT with their Oxtail Soup. NAILS IT. 5 SPAM Musubi in my book.
Portions? Massive. I only could eat half the bowl before retiring my spoon and chopsticks to their resting place on the table, taking the rest home as “doggie bag”, which turned out just as fantastic reheated in the microwave at work for lunch the next day . So in effect, I got two meals for the price of one!
Flavor? Deep, silky, slightly sweet beef broth with just the right kick of Star Anise and Ginger.
The Oxtails themselves were so succulent, I’m “jonesing” for more just writing about it here. Especially when dipped in the grated ginger and shoyu. OMG! SO AWESOME!
The accompaniment of the Pho Noodle bowl on the side was a nice texture and starch contrast, although not necessary, IMO. I would have probably preferred to have the fresh Thai Basil, Mint and Bean Sprouts that usually accompany Pho on the side, although I’m not complaining at all.
Diner WG, big mahalo for the tip! You were right, Pho Bistro 2′ s Oxtail Soup is DA’ BEST!
Pho Bistro 2
1694C Kalakaua Avenue (parking and restaurant entrance located on Fern street)
Mon-Sat. 10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Mon-Sat. 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Sun. 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sun. 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
The Tasty Island rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)