Pho & I (and me)

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

It's a treat finding a new neighborhood place with good food. Partners Witoon Shotitana and Napat Sriwan opened Pho & I in March, their first common venture although they've worked together for many years. Warm and funny, excited about his new 89-seat venture, Shotitana applied his talent for décor during the renovation. It is modern, stylish and especially at the bar, comfortable.

The menu highlights the best of Vietnamese and Thai cooking. Shotitana said: "The difference is that Thai is spicy like food in Laos. Vietnamese seasoning is more subtle with influence from China." Hot and spicy appetizers include fried tofu, chicken wings with chili sauce, todmon (curried shrimp cakes) and crispy calamari. Vietnamese specialties: shrimp on sugar cane and traditional half moon crepes filled with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts.

Pho & I's noodle dishes include spicy drunken noodles, mi xeo (egg noodles with vegetables), pad Thai, pad see-ew (rice noodles with egg and broccoli), spicy curried noodles, unseen bean thread noodles and rad nar. You can roll your own rice paper rolls (banh hoi) with either pork, chicken, beef, or shrimp along with lettuce, mint, carrots and peanuts.

"One of the challenges of being Symphony Hall's neighbor is feeding patrons quickly and well," he said. The staff is attuned to getting you served and out on time.

New small businesses are still the invigorating backbone of the city's top neighborhoods. Life as you know it changes forever, Shotitana says, "The best thing about having your own restaurant is finally being an owner. It makes me feel proud. It is much different than working for someone else as a server. Here you have to manage everything."

As he and Sriwan work through wine and beer selections along with final decorating additions, the picture is coming together. Catering and take out is in full swing. When they worked for others, he said, they were always keeping mental lists of what they would serve in their own space. Lucky for their Huntington Ave Northeastern and MFA neighbors, that day has arrived.

© April 26, 2006 for The City Shopper
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