It’s close to the Mall of Georgia, and we found the restaurant by circling the mall and noting the sign on the back side of the restaurant. It’s pretty much opposite the side of Mall of Georgia where Exit 115 (off I-85) places you. It’s probably more accessible from the north than south.

It’s a nice looking restaurant, that has a bowl of pho in neon as you approach. From some angles it looked smaller than it turned out to be. And once inside, there are a series of awards the owners won with a restaurant in Minnesota; perhaps 6-7 years of “Best of” awards in the Twin Cities.

Calling Noodle Mi a pho place would be doing an injustice to the breadth of their offerings. They have a large menu, and it isn’t just restricted to Vietnamese favorites. They also serve Thai dishes, some Japanese dishes, and some Chinese food as well.

The pho portion of the menu is handled a little differently from other restaurants. Rather than giving you several fixed choices of eye of round, beef brisket, tendon, tripe, etc, they letter the possibilities ‘a’ through ‘f’. The menu then asks you to choose three of them.

My wife and daughter tried the pho. My daughter ordered a mango smoothie. We ordered spring rolls and the Thai curry soup as well, to start. I ordered a dish whose name I’ve forgotten, but the the dish was based on banana peppers, sauteed meats, vegetables and pineapple in a brown sweet and sour sauce.

The spring rolls were good. The smoothie was good, but it tasted more of cream than mango, and it had no hint of mango color. I liked the curry soup, my wife did not. The pho was quite good. My entree, when I received it, was a huge serving, large enough to feed two people. It was good, the sweet, spicy and sour contrasts in the dish quite notable.

When we finished with our entrees, the waiters offered a small cake square, a layered cake with a coffee flavor.

Service was good. When we left the whole family pitched in to clean our table, from the grandfather to a small boy.

Verdict: Recommended. Good pho, generally good food overall, a place worth exploring.

Noodle Mi Asian Bistro
3200 Woodward Crossing Blvd
Buford, GA 30519
(678) 714-0115

Noodle Mi on Urbanspoon

Back in the day when the word ‘pho’ elicited the response ‘huh?’, the best pho in Atlanta was found in Pho Hoa. The restaurant is in Asian Square along Buford Highway, just a little ways south of the bridal boutique. The square itself is dominated by 99 Ranch Market, which was an important place back in the day before the International Markets and Super H began to own the ethnic food scene.

I came here more to see if the old restaurant had changed, perhaps had learned some new tricks. And no, it doesn’t seem to have changed much at all. The seating inside are long rows of tables. Every table has a selection of spicy sauces, chopsticks, and spoons within reach. The clientele is largely Asian. Walls are mirrored, and there was one loud TV playing behind me. There was one person waiting tables, a nice older lady.

Although I was seated quickly, it took a while before I was asked what I wanted. This is a restaurant whose service has never been snappy. If you want attentive service, What the Pho? is a better choice. I ended up ordering a summer roll, their #5 pho, and a soursop smoothie.

Pho, in this restaurant, are organized in terms of how ‘adventurous’ they are. In more explicit terms, fattier meats, cuts with more cartilage, things like tripe appear in the dish as you proceed from simple phos to adventuresome products. In this respect it’s no different from the sushi restaurants who label flying fish roe sushis and eel sushis as ‘challenging’. The pho can be purchased in small, medium and large bowls. Medium bowls are about $5.95 and large bowls are $6.50 or so.

The summer rolls weren’t bad, shrimp and vegetables visible inside a translucent wrapper. The pho was actually quite good. The broth was dark, and the meat was tender, falling apart tender, which I didn’t expect. The collection of mints, sprouts, and slices of pepper was a little smaller than I’m used to, but to be fair, I’m used to eating pho with a party, not alone. The soursop smoothie was really good, hints of the fruit’s flavor shining through.

Verdict:  Recommended. Good inexpensive food. Service is a bit slow. Pho Hoa is perhaps still the best place in town for a pho beginner.

Pho Hoa
5150 Buford Highway,
Doraville GA, 30340-1153
(770) 455-8729

Pho Hoa on Urbanspoon

Notes: The New York Times has been following pho for ages, from this article (seen in abstract) about the migration of pho from North to South, to this article, an eater’s guide to the phos of North and South Vietnam. The latter is my favorite pho article of all time. One thing that did surprise me while researching this article is that Pho Hoa is a chain. There are locations of this chain on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and others in six other countries.

I have a coworker whose wife is Vietnamese, and on his recommendation we went to “What the Pho?”, which has, in his estimation, the best crispy noodles in town. He later mentioned that his wife likes Pho Mimi. I asked him what she saw in Pho Mimi.

He replied,  “Because she can get what she likes there.”

Pho Mimi has been reviewed by Chow Down Atlanta, who distinctly preferred What the Pho?. In the discussions I’ve read however, some of the people arguing for Pho Mimi mentioned that it was more than just a pho restaurant, that it served other dishes too and it served them well. And as my wife was very interested in having me take a peek at Super H Mart, we decided to make a run down Pleasant Hill to Pho Mimi and Super H Mart.

Pho Mimi is in the Park Village complex on Pleasant Hill Road, a two story C shaped collection of stores and offices in which Super H Mart is also found. It’s on the right hand side as you enter the complex from Pleasant Hill, almost at the right corner of the C. And of course the day I went with my family it was packed. The one bit of seating we had was in the corner, next to a chair containing a jacket and shoes.

It was quite opposite the experience at other pho places, which by comparison had a comfortably large collection of waiters. You could tell in the eyes of the waiter that seated us that they had all they could handle that day and more. There were perhaps two or three waiters for the whole restaurant, and they had one table with close to 20 people, and multiple tables seating more than 4. Other than myself, there was one other person in the restaurant that didn’t appear to be partly Asian.

Pho Mimi, it has to be said, is open and roomy. You don’t feel as if you’re sharing your table with your neighbor. The menu is extensive and they have pictures of the food choices, which helps. They had some egg noodle dishes and some rice noodle dishes I hadn’t seen in a while, since the pho place just to the east of I-85 and Indian Trail closed. Certainly that made me happy. My wife tried the pho with chicken and my daughter found a pho with some seafood, I think. We ordered spring rolls as well, ones with tofu and veggies. Our waiter was young, sharp, and offered good advice as we sort of rummaged around the menu.

It took a while to get our food and it came out in a funny order, probably as a result of feeding the crowd they had. The rolls were good. They had mint, which my wife doesn’t like, but my wife ate them anyway. I liked my dish, a rice noodle dish with seafood and quail eggs and what looked like most of an ox tail in the bowl. My wife wasn’t too fond of the chicken pho, because the flavor of the chicken was not what she expected. When my daughter and I tried it, it had a dark meat flavor to it, almost like duck. That’s not a taste my wife enjoys. She’s more of a white meat person.

My daughter emptied her bowl.

We asked the waiter if my wife could have been served duck and he just laughed and said, “We don’t have duck here.”

In general I thought the service was very good, considering the issues they had.

In conclusion? I wouldn’t recommend Pho Mimi as a beginner’s first pho restaurant. It is, however, a great place to explore food. For that reason I do recommend this place, for those with a willingness to try and experience something a bit different.

Pho Mimi on Urbanspoon

I have a coworker with a Vietnamese wife, and one day I asked him where he went to eat Vietnamese food. And his reply was he ate at “What the Pho?“, because they had the best crispy noodle dish in town. I had seen “What the Pho?” while driving up and down Pleasant Hill, thought the name was funny, but there are a flood of pho places in town. Further, there is a man who works in Saigon Cafe (Duluth) who knows my wife on sight (from many visits to Manchuria Gardens, when he worked there); consequently, we tend to get nice treatment in Saigon Cafe. There wasn’t much reason to go to a new pho place, but to check out this crispy noodle dish and find out what it was all about.

The restaurant is on Pleasant Hill Road, in a strip mall on the north side of the street (to your right while driving west from the I-85 intersection). It’s easy to decide that you’ve driven too far and turn around too early. The only way I’ve found to prevent this is to continue to remind myself it’s a block before the Super H-Mart complex in the area. So it’s simple: drive till you find it. If you pass the Super H-Mart, turn around.

The place itself is smallish and neat. The waiters are young, dressed well, in trendy haircuts, polite and mannered. The menu is extensive, more so than I can adequately describe here. When my wife asked a lot of questions of the food, they answered her patiently. The pho is served fast and the pho is good. Serving size is more than adequate, even in the “medium” bowl.

But when the crispy noodles came out — It’s a heap of meat, seafood, vegetables, and a dark broth poured over a cylindrical stack of noodles 2.5 to 3 inches tall, and almost as round as the plate. Visually it’s quite an experience. And for the first time in my life, people in the tables adjacent to me were openly talking about the dish I was eating. Yes, I found that a little disconcerting, but not so disconcerting that I was going to stop eating.

The dish was quite good. I would let the noodles soak up some liquid, so they would be easier to manage, and then eat. It was a slower meal to eat than pho. My family was watching after a bit. I shared some with my daughter and wife; they liked what they tried as well.

Summary? The dish is good enough that after the first time, I came back to have it again. Is it good enough to drive across town to eat? I can’t answer that for anyone else. For me, the only thing I drive long distances for are really good barbecue, or a really good Japanese restaurant. But yes, if you’re in the region and have an urge to try their crispy noodles, I’d recommend you do.

Some more general “What the Pho?” reviews: Access Atlanta here and Creative Loafing here. Chow Down Atlanta has a review of What the Pho? that has a nice picture of the crispy noodle dish.

What the Pho on Urbanspoon