Pho 505 – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Pho 505, Currently in Nob Hill

Eating slowly is good for the stomach; plowing deeply is good for the fields.”
~Vietnamese Proverb

Imagine if the village of Hatch was granted a trademark that awarded it exclusive rights to the name “chile.”  Imagine Hatch then taking legal recourse against Chimayo, Lemitar, Jarales, et al. to prevent them from using the term.  Civil war would surely ensue.  A similar situation actually occurred in England when in 2013, an owner-operator of a small Vietnamese restaurant chain  trademarked the term “Pho” (as well as “pho” and “PHO).”  In a letter, the audacious trademark owner sent the following cease and desist request to existing restaurants: “…we have to ask all restaurants, large and small, to refrain from using the trademark Pho in their name. And with what we think is a fair amount of time to rename…”

While it’s not at all unusual for a restaurant to trademark its name in order to protect its identity, this particular overreach exemplifies either bureaucrats sleeping on the job or having absolutely no knowledge of the genesis and cultural significance of pho.  How, after all, can the national dish of Vietnam possibly be trademarked?  How could Vietnamese restaurateurs possibly be made to stop selling their nation’s most famous dish?  Obviously there was also a very loud outcry across England, both among restaurateurs and the normally stodgy and staid British dining public.  Ultimately the trademark owner recognized the fatuousness of its attempts to hog the name “Pho” and recanted efforts to prevent the use of the term.

The Charming Interior of Pho 505

Pho is not only the national dish and great source of pride for Vietnam, it’s the one Vietnamese dish which has gained sweeping mainstream acceptance across the world.  Culinary cognoscenti believe pho could someday soon follow the path of pizza (Italian), tacos (Mexican), gyros (Greece) and sushi (Japanese) as ethnic foods that have become part of the fruited plain’s mainstream culture.  Largely because pho is already so recognized, many Vietnamese restaurants incorporate the term in their name. In the Albuquerque metropolitan area for example, there’s: Pho #1, Pho Kobe, Pho Linh, Pho 79 and Pho Garden.   January, 2019 saw the launch of Pho 505, yet another Vietnamese restaurant named for Vietnam’s sacrosanct soup.

Set on Route 66 in what many consider the cultural hub of the Duke City, it’s only fitting that Nob Hill’s only Vietnamese restaurant would incorporate the metropolitan area’s area code.  Pho 505 is housed in a space previously occupied by such short-lived eateries as Soul & Vine, Loving Vegan and most recently 99 Degrees Seafood Kitchen, all good concepts which just didn’t catch on.  When he closed 99 Degrees, restaurateur Vu Nguyen partnered with the good folks who own Bacon Jam to launch Pho 505.  It took only a couple of months before the partners came to the realization that this location is afflicted by a business-killing curse called ART.  A new location is in the planning.

Steamed Clams

As might be expected, Pho 505’s menu does list a number of soups though not nearly as many (five) as the restaurant’s name might suggest–and they’re listed in a section titled “Noodle Soups.”  Unlike some Duke City Vietnamese restaurants, Pho 505’s menu isn’t a virtual compendium of Vietnamese dishes.  Aside from noodle soups, the menu offers three noodle bowls, six rice plates, two stir-fry dishes, two salads, a banh mi, desserts, drinks and appetizers.  While the menu may appear somewhat small, when you consider the different proteins you can have with your entree, the menu becomes larger.  There are several vegetarian-friendly entrees as well.

Pho 505 may be the only Vietnamese restaurant in town to offer steamed clams (hard shelled prime white clams, green pepper, red pepper and Vietnamese mint leaves tossed with a garlic butter sauce).  Alas, what was delivered to our table wasn’t what was described on the menu meaning there was no hint of green and red pepper or Vietnamese mint, only a couple of sprigs of cilantro.  Nor were their flavors discernible within the garlic butter sauce.  While the clams in garlic butter sauce were quite tasty, we were left wondering what additional flavors the promised ingredients would have delivered.

Satay Beef Noodle Soup

As with menus at many Asian restaurants, some items on Pho 505’s menu are spelled phonetically–how they sound.  The satay beef noodle soup, for example, may confuse diners who know “satay” as a Thai appetizer of meat skewers served with a peanut sauce.   For the anally-retentive among us, the spelling should be “sate,” named for a chili sauce which actually originated in China.  Sate sauce is made with red chilis, garlic, shallots, sugar, red onions, lemongrass and peanuts.  It’s a rather piquant sauce which renders soup similar in personality to bun bo Hue, my very favorite Vietnamese soup.  Pho 505’s rendition includes beef brisket, meatballs, cucumber and tomatoes.  Both my friend and colleague Tuan Bui and I agreed that by any spelling, this soup could have used a bit more heat.  Diners in the 505 expect and can handle more heat.

Pho 505 is one of the most attractive Vietnamese restaurants in the metropolitan area.  Time–and a new location–will tell whether Duke City diners will embrace it as enthusiastically as it deserves.

Pho 505
3409 Central Avenue, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 19 April 2019
COST: $$
BEST BET: Steamed Clams, Satay Beef Noodle Soup
REVIEW #1107

Pho 505 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 thoughts on “Pho 505 – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. In 2014 I was fortunate to visit Vietnam (much better than “visiting” it in the less fortunate 1968) I was able to sneak up on understanding the differences between Northern Pho and Southern Pho. I flew into Hanoi and out of Saigon (no, it’s not Ho Chi Minh City, sorry).

    Hanoi-style pho bac is a minimalist soup highlighted by a sprinkling of fresh ginger and a largish hunk of soft, bloody filet mignon hacked up like a guy who had lost a razor fight. Pho bac is pretty different from the jazzy, amped-up Saigon pho – it’s quieter, less dependent on the flavors of caramelization, and uncluttered by the half-dozen meats common in southern-style pho.

    By the way, is there anything more annoying than the friend who corrects your pronunciation of pho, insisting that you call the Vietnamese beef noodle soup “fuh” instead of “foe”? I think not.

  2. Before I get to the merits of one Pho vs. another Pho, I must address, Gil, your opening regarding trademark laws.
    I come from the wine world, so I am informed about the trademark issues in that world.

    Take for example, a bottle of sparkling wine to be labeled Champagne, it has to be made in Champagne, France and produced using the méthode champenoise. If that bottle is produced using the exact same method, anywhere else, it must carry a different name. The production method itself must even be referred to differently, méthode tranditionalle being the usual substitute. These rules are strictly enforced. They are codified in national laws, European Union regulations, and international trade agreements and treaties. When they are broken, in even the most tangential ways, lawsuits are quickly filed.

    In your opening example, they are not trying to trademark a method of production, or even an origin of production, but a noun. Imagine, a beef farmer or a corn farmer wishing to trademark the nouns *corn* and *beef.* Absurd, indeed. I need now a coupe of days to repost on this blog the culinary merits of Pho, itself.

  3. A R T ???? That excuse is long gone but good try! Just need to know the very best Pho in town……no partiality, no excuses, just UNEMBELLISED best Pho!!

    1. With all due respect, ART is not an excuse. Rather than revitalize the city with quick, efficient rapid transit, ART remains a nightmare for businesses along Central Avenue. The dedicated lanes for the out-of-commission electric buses have essentially made Central Avenue a plodding, confusing one-lane challenge for both driving and parking. I speak with restaurateurs all the time who cite plummeting business thanks to the lane constrictions created to make way for ART stations and the dedicated bus lane. By some estimates as many as 50 businesses have closed…no excuse there.

      Insofar as the best pho in the city, my choice is the beef noodle soup at the aptly named Pho #1, however, since I prefer by beef noodle soups embellished, I recommend the Spicy Beef Stew at Cafe Dalat and the bun bo Hue at Huong Thao.

    2. Gil is not *embellishing* here, Dixie. He’s right. ART has been a “business-killing curse” for those restaurants (and other merchants) on this disaterous infrastructure project.

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