About two weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from my friend Piyush, saying that he had “just tried the best pho place in town!” and asked if I had tried it yet.
He was referring to Pho14 Noodles Palace at 1245 Libra Drive, Suite 108, -- next to the F.O.X. Neighborhood Bar & Grill in southwest Lincoln.
And, no, despite it being open for more than a year, I had not. Sometimes new eating places escape my notice.
But this one shouldn’t have.
Piyush was right. Not only does Noodles Palace serve some tasty, beef brothy pho, but its spring rolls rank right up there with those found at Vietnamese restaurants on North 27th Street.
The Nguyen family -- father Bang, mother Thao, daughter Anh and son Chuong -- opened Noodles Palace in December 2015. The Nguyens, Anh said, came to the U.S. from Vietnam five years ago, settling in Lincoln.
With an abundance of Vietnamese restaurants in north Lincoln, especially along 27th Street, opening one in southwest Lincoln makes a lot of sense.
Anh said business has been growing steadily over the past year as more and more people are discovering Noodles Palace during the lunch and dinner hours.
Anh marked three menu items on my to-go menu that are customer favorites. Two of them I had ordered during my visit: the house special pho ($7.99 small, $9.49 large) and the Vietnamese spring rolls (four for $5.99).
The third is a vermicelli dish featuring an egg roll and grilled pork ($8.99).
The house special combines the meats -- flank steak, meatballs, etc. -- found in the other phos. Compared to phos I’ve enjoyed on the North 27th Street Vietnamese restaurants, I found Noodles Palace’s broth a little beefier and even a tad sweeter. I added very little hoisin sauce.
If the serving size I received was “small,” I hate to see what the large is. I finished two-thirds of my soup and enjoyed the rest for a lunch later in the week. That’s two meals for $7.99.
The spring rolls also are large. They include half dollar-sized shrimp, plenty of crunch from carrots and flavor from cilantro. The peanut sauce was a tad disappointing -- more grainy and runny than smooth and thick. It tasted OK.
The menu also includes rice noodle soups, egg noodle soups, steamed and fried rice entrees, vermicelli and a handful of traditional Vietnamese dishes.
I had a couple of other minor complaints. Typically pho is served with a side of basil, bean sprouts, jalapenos and limes. But ours arrived minus the bean sprouts. Anh assured me sprouts are par for the course. Also, the Nguyens use jelly cubes instead of, or in addition to, tapioca pearls for their bubble teas. I prefer tapioca, but I know just as many folks who disagree with me. Grade: B+
My friends and I dined on a Sunday evening, with only one other table occupied, so we basically had our server to ourselves. The flow was good, with drinks arriving shortly after ordering, followed a couple of minutes later by our appetizer and then our entrees. Our server refilled our waters and checked back often to make sure everything was OK. Grade: A.
Of the Vietnamese restaurants in Lincoln, Noodles Palace is the nicest. That’s because it’s located in one of Lincoln’s newer strip malls. Booths, tables and chairs are fairly new. Noodles Palace uses warm colors (yellow and brown), plants and scant amount of decor representative of its Vietnamese heritage. Soothing music is played at a low level. Grade: A
Most of the broths are meat-based. There is vegetable with udon noodles soup, but check with your server to make sure the stock isn’t beef. The menu includes such dishes as fried tofu with vermicelli ($6.99), vegetable fried rice ($5.99), Vietnamese pancakes ($9.49) and a fried rice cake ($8.99). Grade: C+