As its name suggests, PhoXpress is a melding of traditional Vietnamese foods with a fast-food setting.
PhoXpress is attractively styled in shades of celadon and located in the appealing new College Town area on the eastern edge of the University of Texas at Arlington campus, but business was slow on a Monday in early August, a time when few students are on campus.
Its website offers the best explanation of “pho,” the traditional Vietnamese soup served in huge bowls, we’ve seen. It explains that the specific cut of white rice noodles in the clear beef (or chicken) broth are called banh pho. The broth is spiced with star anise, cardamom, fennel seed, coriander seed, roasted ginger, clove and more. Garnishes include large quantities of sprouts, cilantro, green onions and Thai basil. The restaurant also offers a vegetarian twist on most of its dishes, including a vegetarian pho with a vegetable-based broth, loaded with bok choy, broccoli, corn, mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper and tofu.
In a fast-food arrangement, PhoXpress customers place their orders and pay at the counter. The collapsed-down menu is meant to simplify ordering but can be confusing the first go-round. If you’re ordering the grilled plate, pick your side (steamed rice, fried rice or vermicelli), pick your grilled protein (beef, chicken, shrimp, pork or tofu), then opt to add a fried egg roll or a second grilled meat.
Pho has a similar step-by-step selection method. Pick your size (small, large), pick your broth (beef, chicken, veggie), pick your meat (for beef broth, the selections are filet, brisket, flank steak and meatball). There are also seafood options: shrimp, crab, fish ball and squid, as well as chicken and veggie. All-in-all it’s a bit confusing for the first encounter with PhoXpress, though it probably gets easier with your next go-round.
We opted for the traditional spring rolls ($4) with the usual shrimp filling, but the menu also offers pork and tofu fillings. The spring rolls had a good number of medium-sized shrimp amid the vermicelli and bean sprouts. We wouldn’t have minded a bit more peanut sauce for dipping.
The beef broth pho ($8.50) was served in a large, but definitely not the largest pho bowl we’ve seen. The broth was clear, not greasy, and nicely spiced with a faint hint of sweetness. The sliced brisket was a little on the tough side; we’d probably order the filet next time.
For the grilled plate ($8), we selected steamed rice with two meats: pork and chicken. The accompanying sweet sauce perked up the grilled meats, and the mound of rice was good-sized.
The chicken banh mi sandwich ($5) was the disappointment. The bread wasn’t as crispy as we were expecting, more like a hoagie bun than the usual crunchy baguette, and both the grilled chicken and the vegetables could have been piled on more thickly.
Like many Vietnamese restaurants, PhoXpress offers thick, smoothielike drinks in unusual flavors such as avocado — though in keeping with its fast-food format, the number of flavor options isn’t as large as it is at sit-down-to-order restaurants.
PhoXpress is owned by the Nguyen family, which also owns the lively Blazes Grill next door.
You should know: There is a 10% discount for UTA students and faculty with a UTA ID card. Keeping its tech-savvy customer base in mind, the UTA campus PhoXpress takes online orders at its website, phoxpress.com.