Even today, it can be hard to find great vegan options at a restaurant that serves a range of dietary preferences and needs. Too often I’ve had watered down salads, french fries, and/or dry veggie burgers that were a compromise to accommodate everyone. Chef John Van Huynh at Pho Fresh is passionate about pleasing everyone by making fresh a priority. He focuses on preparing dishes fresh to order without pre-chopped or frozen veggies and it’s evident in the vibrant colors and textures served.
Pho Fresh opened about 1.5 years ago and instantly became a favorite in the local vegan community for a large selection of fresh and original vegan dishes. John’s passion for great vegan options won multiple awards for the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge for the overall 2018 Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge and 1st place for the Great Sacramento Vegan Burger Battle selling over 400 burgers for that month and keeping the Big Eastern Vegan Burger on the menu for the first week of every month by popular demand.
Pho Fresh has earned many regular vegan customers with a plant based menu larger than many vegan-only restaurants with creative options prepared to order.
There are some challenges to making each dish fresh according to John, perfection can take longer while some customers want fast food. But he believes most eat out for quality and original creations they won’t make at home. Who can argue? Especially with a great selection of beer and wine.
Portion sizes are impressive, easily shareable with friends and family and great for group dine outs. They also accommodate gluten-free and oil-free requests with ease. Some dishes are served with peanuts, but they do not use peanut oil for cooking and can accommodate nut allergies as well. No MSG and they do not use fish sauce to keep most sauces vegan even when served with non-vegan dishes to prevent cross contamination. They also only use vegan sugar.
We tried a range of dishes, wishing we had room for more, starting with the Tofu Belly Tacos.
Fresh tofu, spicy garlic sauce, sriracha cucumbers, cilantro, and pickled carrots and daikons served in fresh steamed white buns. This fun combo was delicious with a playful and daring level of spice, tangy garlic sauce and soft buns that were still steaming. The tofu was thinly sliced with a firm texture that worked so well with the pillow-like buns.
Next we moved onto the Vegan Lover’s Roll.
Crispy tofu, avocado, beansprouts, noodles, sesame seeds, and lettuce wrapped in rice paper and topped with peanut sauce, sriracha sauce, onions, crushed peanuts, and fresh cilantro. There were so many great flavors and textures going on in this roll with the firm, crispy tofu and blend of kicky sauces.
Next onto the Tofu Basil Popcorn.
Crispy, battered tofu cubes with Cajun flavors over a bed of crispy noodles and fresh and fried basil. The steaming fresh basil scent made it tough not to dive right in when they arrived. Cajun blended with strong basil is simply genius fusion and an unexpected surprise that worked so well together. This is an item I would add to a must eat list if you’re ever traveling to Sacramento to do a vegan comfort food bender. Along with the Mushroom Tenders from Midtown Sushi, the Buffalo Cauliflower from Revolution Wines, and whatever the decadent vegan dessert option is from The Porch.
That was just appetizers, next we moved onto to the the Spicy Hawaiian Fried Rice with Mock Chicken for one main dish.
This dish has the option of mock vegan chicken or tofu and we opted for the chicken which had a nice, firm texture that worked with the rice well since it didn’t have it’s own breaded coating. Tofu is also added for the scrambled “egg” part of the fried rice making this a hearty meal in it’s own. The large pineapple chunks were obviously fresh with a crispy texture and bright flavor and sweetness pared perfectly with the spicy heat.
The final main dish was the Coconut Curry Stir-Fried Noodles with Tofu.
Vibrant mixed veggies with tofu and a very creamy coconut curry sauce that was decadent over thick rice noodles. I could eat this kind of dish every day I think, I never get tired of coconut and curry together and the fun, wide noodles with bright veggies made this variation more fun and healthier at the same time. And there were plenty of servings in this dish to share or take home for leftovers.
It will be many trips before I can try everything on the vegan menu and I am looking forward to each one. I’m excited this is a place I can bring any of my friends, family members, or even co-workers too. Follow the fabulous eats at Pho Fresh: