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Mo'ili'ili Eats: Pho Bistro 2

If you’re thinking to yourself that the bowl above looks more like Oxtail Soup than Pho, you’re right! It is indeed Oxtail Soup. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to find in a Pho Restaurant, as both dishes have a lot in common at its core. The most obvious of course is the savory, yet silky beef broth brought upon from the marrow of beef bones simmered for hours, along with the distinct zest of star anise and aromatic bite of ginger.

The reason I find myself at Pho Bistro 2 for Oxtail Soup, is one of our vendors at my workplace HIGHLY recommended I try theirs after reading my review of that which is offered at Asahi Grill, the current Honolulu-based hub of Kapiolani Coffee Shop (their namesake restaurant is located in Waimalu Shopping Center). If you never heard of Kapiolani Coffee Shop, well then you probably don’t know what local style Oxtail Soup is all about to begin with, so never mind. lol

So where is Pho Bistro 2? It’s in a tiny strip mall on the upper mauka side of Kalakaua avenue (not in Waikiki). The restaurant front itself is around the corner on Fern street, a bit out of view from the main drag, so you can easily miss it if you’re not look looking for it. Fern street is just a short block down from Makaloa street (where Don Quijote and Palama Market on the corner is)  if you’re headed towards Waikiki on Kalakaua. Passing or coming from Makaloa on Kalakaua heading towards Waikiki, hang a left at the next light and you’re there.


Pho Bistro @ 1694C Kalakaua avenue (the parking and restaurant entrance is on Fern Street)

There are two 1-hour limit stalls right in front of the restaurant, as well as quite a few customer stalls on the side of the building on Fern street. 

Like many hole-in-the-walls, Pho Bistro 2’s dining room is deceptively  roomy and spread out more than you’d expect judging from the outside…

It’s a very simple, clean, cozy and comfortable ambiance.

Shoyu, Hoisin sauce and all the hot sauces one could wish for are right at your disposal in the condiment station at each table…

O.K., let’s get right to it and see what’s on the menu…

As you see, prices are VERY, VERY reasonable here, which seems to be the norm for most Vietnamese restaurants in Honolulu.

I was a little disappointed they didn’t have those Vietnamese style stuffed pork chicken wings on the appetizer menu like they do at Bac Nam, but that’s O.K..  As mentioned earlier, I was here primarily for one thing and one thing only, which I’ll get into detail later.

For starters, my girlfriend and I shared a platter of the Spring Rolls (Cha Gio)…


Pho Bistro 2 -Spring Rolls (Cha Gio), $6.50

The Vietnamese way to eat spring rolls is to dip the spring roll, accompanying Vermicelli noodles and shredded carrots n’ cut cucumbers in the sweet and sour sauce, then simply wrap it with the fresh lettuce and enjoy…

Wrapped up like this, juss’ whack ’em…

Mmmmmm, these Vietnamese Spring Rolls are sooooo goooooood! Winnah! Our server told us there’s Taro in the mixture, which takes them longer to cook. Whatever is in the filling, it’s absolutely, outrageously DELICIOUS. Solid 5 SPAM Musubi for this dish. Spring Rolls just don’t get better than this.

Now for the main course, my girlfriend wasn’t sure which one to choose from the Rice Dishes menu: Pork? Chicken? Or Beef? So she decided to get the Combo, which is pretty much a no-brainer considering for just $1.50 more you get to try all three. Here’s the Combo…


Pho Bistro 2 – House Special Combo Plate (Com Dac Biet), 10.45

The Com Dac Biet is described as: Combination of Beef Short Ribs, Grilled Chicken and Special Marinated Pork Chop served with rice (which is the more aromatic Jasmine Rice).

The beef and pork was the winner in this spread. Char-grilled (not griddle-topped) to perfection. Each one had a hint of lem0ngrass in its herbal profile, while the beef short ribs had an almost Teriyaki style flavor to it (sweetened shoyu), although not exactly. Certainly more Vietnamese. The chicken was pretty good, but if in doubt, get the beef or pork. WINNER.

With that, my girlfriend gives this plate a solid 4 SPAM Musubi (could have been 5 if the chicken was more to her liking).

Last but not least we have my Oxtail Soup…


Pho Bistro 2 – Oxtail Soup with substitute Pho Noodles on the side intead of Rice, 11.95 + 1.50 for Pho Noodles (what a deal!)

Diner WG, the person who referred me to this place, suggested I try the Oxtail Soup with Pho noodles on the side instead, so that’s what I did.

Let’s have a closer look at the Oxtail Soup…


Pho Bistro 2 – Oxtail Soup, $11.95 with rice (I opted for Pho noodles instead for $1.50 more)

This GIGANTIC bowl of soup was just TEAMING with thick, meaty Oxtails…

When I stuck my spoon in the bowl to fish what’s inside, I could barely swish it around, as Oxtail after Oxtail got in its way. Nice!

After it was all said and done, I  counted six of  ”em. Most on the bigger side, with the two on top here about as big as the profile of a rolled-up fist. WOW!

Setting Pho Bistro’s Oxtail Soup apart from Asahi Grill, they load it with generous amounts of chopped mustard cabbage…


Pho Bistro 2  – Oxtail Soup: “choke” mustard cabbage

Also unlike Asahi Grill (Kapiolani Coffee Shop), Pho Bistro’s Oxtail Soup includes generous slices of Shiitake Mushrooms…


Pho Bistro 2  – Oxtail Soup: “choke” sliced shiitake mushrooms

While going back to classic protocol, Pho Bistro’s Oxtail  Soup is loaded with peanuts…


Pho Bistro 2  – Oxtail Soup: “choke” peanuts

For garnish, it’s finished with several thin-sliced decorative carrots, chopped Chinese Parsley (Cilantro) and a generous heap of fresh ginger in the middle. 

Of course the best part is taking this…


Pho Bistro 2  – Oxtail Soup: “CHOKE!” fall-off-the-bone, marrow-melts-in-the-mouth beef oxtails

…and with whatever you can hold on to with your chopsticks of these fall-off-the-bone tender morsels of beef oxtail, dip it in the grated ginger and shoyu sauce…


Tender oxtails dipped in fresh grated ginger and shoyu


Tender oxtails dipped in fresh grated ginger and shoyu

Brah! I tell you, this has got to be one of THE GREATEST BEEF DISHES in the WORLD. Period. Arguably better than STEAK. The infusion of the marrow and star anise-infused broth into the fall-off-the-oxtail bone tender beef, along with the intensely flavored fresh grated ginger and shoyu mixture is another one of those “Marriages made in Heaven”.

Pho Bistro 2 absolutely NAILS IT with their Oxtail Soup. NAILS IT. 5 SPAM Musubi in my book.

Portions? Massive. I only could eat half the bowl before retiring my spoon and chopsticks to their resting place on the table, taking the rest home as “doggie bag”, which turned out just as fantastic reheated in the microwave at work for lunch the next day . So in effect, I got two meals for the price of one!

Flavor? Deep, silky, slightly sweet beef broth with just the right kick of Star Anise and Ginger.

The Oxtails themselves were so succulent, I’m “jonesing” for more just writing about it here.  Especially when dipped in the grated ginger and shoyu. OMG! SO AWESOME!

The accompaniment of the Pho Noodle bowl on the side was a nice texture and starch contrast, although not necessary, IMO. I would have probably preferred to have the fresh Thai Basil, Mint and Bean Sprouts that usually accompany Pho on the side, although I’m not complaining at all.

Diner WG, big mahalo for the tip! You were right, Pho Bistro 2′ s Oxtail Soup is DA’  BEST!

Pho Bistro 2
1694C Kalakaua Avenue (parking and restaurant entrance located on Fern street)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Tel. 949-2727

Business hours:
Mon-Sat. 10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Mon-Sat. 4:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Sun. 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sun. 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Related links:
Oxtail Soup at Asahi Grill – The Tasty Island
Pho Bistro 2 – Yelp user reviews

21 thoughts on “Mo'ili'ili Eats: Pho Bistro 2

  • September 21, 2009 at 9:27 pm
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    Oh boy…the oxtail looks fantastic! Guess I gotta go try there. Certainly agree with your 5 musubi rating from the pictures!

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  • September 21, 2009 at 9:30 pm
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    5 musubi huh.
    You just sold me Pomai. Going there tomorrow.
    Thank you for the heads up!!!!!!!!!!

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  • September 22, 2009 at 4:13 am
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    Pomai, that a lot of musubis for this place. I do like the oxtail soup will try it out. Want to check the lemon grass chicken also.

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  • September 22, 2009 at 6:11 am
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    Oh man, I am there on my next trip. It’s 6am, and I could dive into ALL of that food right now. ;o)

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  • September 22, 2009 at 7:26 am
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    Okihwn, Yoro and Erica, don’t just take my word for it. While a 5-SPAM Musubi rating sounds generous, backing up my claim are six (count it, 6) Yelp users (see link above) who also give Pho Bistro 2’s Oxtail Soup 5 STARS. Others also proclaim their Pho to be the best in the island. I wouldn’t doubt that.

    Please get back to us here after you try Pho Bistro 2’s Oxtail Soup and let us know what YOU thought!

    Marcus, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed, and the prices are obviously very “non-Waikiki-ish” even though they’re actually within walking distance if you’re willing to sweat a little.

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  • September 22, 2009 at 10:45 am
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    Oh my god this looks SO good. I’ve never been to Hawaii but I am going to visit this coming October! Another 5 weeks more and I will be there! Can’t wait! I really want to go to this restaurant but I am staying in a hotel along Waikiki Beach – how far from Waikiki Beach is this place? Any directions would be MUCH appreciated! Thank you!

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  • September 22, 2009 at 12:19 pm
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    The spring rolls look good! Never had oxtail soup before (and probably never will) but it does look delicious!

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  • September 22, 2009 at 9:38 pm
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    slappedbygunk, the easiest way I can figure out for you to get there from whatever hotel on the beach in Waikiki you’re staying at, is to simply catch a cab, and tell the cab driver, “Please take me to Pho Bistro on Fern Street, near the Kaheka Don Quijote”.

    Print that instructions I just gave you to make sure he/she gets it right, and doesn’t take you for a “spin around the block”. Tell the cab driver to get on Ala Wai Boulevard, then on Kalakaua avenue, then hang a right on Fern Street. You’ll be there right after that turn (literally). If the cab driver gets it right, it shouldn’t cost you more than $7 plus tip. From there, you can easily figure out how to walk back to Waikiki.

    If you’d rather walk to Pho Bistro (and save the cab fare) from your Waikiki beach hotel, it will probably take you about 20 minutes to a half-hour from most hotels in Waikiki that are located on the beach. I’ll just say, instead of walking towards the RIGHT (towards the beach), walk towards your left (the mountain), and eventually you’ll reach Fern street if you stay on Kalakaua avenue (don’t turn off at Kapiolani boulevard or you’ll get lost!).

    Hope this helps.

    Sagemom, why is it you (probably never will) try oxtail soup?! You’re missin’ out, I tell ya’!

    Reply
  • September 22, 2009 at 10:17 pm
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    No ways! 5 musubi? Okay, how much did the owner pay you? Nah just kidding Pomai, your photos makes my mouth water and I swear I can smell the broth coming out of my laptop’s vents!

    Reply
  • September 23, 2009 at 1:20 pm
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    Pomai, thank you for your directions and tips, they’re really helpful! If I make it to Pho Bistro I’ll be sure to blog about it and let you know!!

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  • September 24, 2009 at 5:23 am
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    slappedbygunk (funny s/n), cool. Hope you make it.

    Diner A, the day we have “Smell-O-Vision” on our computers and TVs is the day online food columns, blogs (like this) and cooking shows will change the world. For now we’ll just have to make due with “I think I know what that smells like-O-Vision”. lol

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  • September 24, 2009 at 10:06 am
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    Woo boy, 5 spam musubi! This is now on the top of my list for when we go back. And I have got to get that oxtail soup with pho on the side. Looks fantastic! And a side of Spring rolls, of course!

    Reply
  • September 25, 2009 at 11:19 am
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    I saw this restaurant while I was precariously making my way down Kalakaua. Thank you for the heads up! I will definitely give it a try!

    Your posts are so great, thank you so much for sharing with us!

    Reply
  • October 13, 2009 at 10:56 am
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    Just wanted to let you guys know, on my most recent trip to Pho Bistro 2 I saw a flier for a one time all-you-can eat buffet on Nov. 1. It’s to celebrate their 3rd year of business and from what I can remember, they will have egg rolls, lemon grass chicken, teri chicken, drinks, some sort of desert and more (sorry that’s all i can remember).

    Big fan of this place and want to make sure they stay in business, thx.

    Reply
  • October 17, 2009 at 11:09 am
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    Andy, thanks for the 411 on that November 1st buffet. I’ll be there to celebrate the occasion! Indeed Pho Bistro 2 is a diamond in the rough, and I wish it many years ahead of success.

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  • August 13, 2010 at 8:51 pm
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    Is this the same owner and recipes of the Pho bistro in Waipahu? I really like the Pho and if it is, then I don’t need to go to Waipahu to enjoy it.

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  • August 14, 2010 at 9:31 am
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    PhoLover, I’m not sure. Try giving them a call and ask.

    I do know Pho Bistro 2 (here in town) makes one of THE BEST OXTAIL SOUP on the island. Between them and The Alley Restaurant in Aiea Bowl, it’s a toss-up for the Gold Medal.

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  • November 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm
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    I found another ox-tail soup. Got to go back…..

    Alvin

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  • November 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm
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    We live right down the street and go there at least once a week. The prices have gone up a little bit, but still very much worth it.
    Like many of the previous positing brought out, the Ox-tail is winnah’s!

    aloha

    Reply

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