Pho Ta

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A few weekends ago I read a review of a new Vietnamese restaurant on Capel Street. Looking it up late last week, not remembering the name of it, visions of Pho and Banh Mi in my head, the Internet directed me instead to a Vietnamese place in Temple Bar. In TEMPLE BAR?! What?! How long has this been going on?

Pho Ta is, in fact, in Temple Bar and has been for a while. Why it has only now crossed my path is a mystery I shall leave to the Universe. I will simply be grateful that the discovery happened at all.

C and I met up for a quick lunch at Pho Ta over the weekend. Most of the clientele were young Asian students, none of whom was speaking English. I heard Korean and Japanese and one language I wasn’t sure of. There is a lunch deal (starter, main, drink) every day of the week and Saturday. We opted to share a starter (crab spring rolls) and each went for our own main course.

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The spring rolls (their proper Vietnamese name escapes me) were tasty and wolfed down too quickly to even discuss the finer points of the fillings. The sauce was tangy and sweet.

I opted for the chicken Pho, or Pho Ga. Nothing beats a nice chicken soup on a cold day. It was not at all boring; salty, meaty and packed full of vegetables. I always love a dish that comes with “add ons” that I can “add on” myself. I got a plate piled high with coriander, fresh chilies, and bean sprouts. On every table is extra fish sauce and a potent bright orange hot sauce. Everything extra on offer went into my pho at one point or another. I was happy to have a packet of tissues for extra nose blowing; always a good sign!

C had a Vietnamese version of meatballs which he was very happy with. His add on included some of the tangy, sweet sauce from the starter to go with his rice noodels as well as bean sprouts and a green salad. He was satisfied, and also delighted. Not bad for a wet Saturday afternoon.

Having a handy, affordable new lunch spot in Temple Bar is always a winner.

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Pho Ta

Gallagher’s Boxty House

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The first time I had a meal in Temple Bar I was eighteen years old. I was traveling through Europe with my friend Claire. We had just graduated from Miss Porter’s School and were off on a mad rush around as many countries as we could get to in three weeks. We started with Ireland because my sister and her family are here. They brought us to Elephant and Castle where we ate two full plates of what I thought were the best buffalo chicken wings I’d ever eaten.

Two years later, at twenty years old, I was with a group of 25 Americans (all the same age), and our Study Abroad program had arranged for us to have dinner in Temple Bar at The Bad Ass Café. It was our first night in Dublin after spending a few days in Limerick getting to know each other and the Irish time difference. We were excited to be in the city that would be our home for the next nine months. We were also excited to be a legal drinking age. I have NO idea what any of us ate.

The Bad Ass Café and Elephant and Castle are still open and busy in Temple Bar. I do not frequent either (I don’t think I’ve been back to Bad Ass since that night). I don’t think many Dubliners frequent any restaurant in Temple Bar. We leave that cobbeled area of town to the tourists.

The other night, though, my husband, my mother, a family friend and I had dinner at Gallagher’s Boxty House. It’s been in Temple Bar longer than either Bad Ass or Elephant and Castle. We’ve never been because, well, it looks like a tourist trap.

You know it's a tourist trap when there is merch for sale.
You know it’s a tourist trap when there is merch for sale.

We heard that it was a not only a decent place, but a great place to dine from the chef at the Merrion Hotel where we had our wedding. My mother is the Irish Potato’s greatest American fan. The owner and manager of Gallagher’s Boxty House is her Irish equivalent.**

Before dinner none of us was able to really say what exactly a Boxty was. Potato pancake, yes. But like a latke? Or a tater-tot? Or maybe more like hash?! We were all wrong. It is most like a crepe. A crepe made out of delicious Irish spuds.

A Boxty and Cabbage
A Boxty and Cabbage

The Boxty House gang rolls up all sorts of proteins into the Boxty; from smoked ham to lamb, goats cheese to chicken, it’s a world of choices. Between four of us, we only managed three options. But we were all very happy with our choices.

My Boxty came in the form of gnocchi instead of a crepe. The Boxty seems to enjoy masquerading as dishes from other countries. We also ordered some good, old-fashioned Irish cabbage that was cooked perfectly in butter, salt and pepper.

My gnocchi-like Boxty
My gnocchi-like Boxty

The atmosphere in the restaurant is calm, if busy. We had a nice table in the window. Most of the accents in the room (including ours) were not Irish.

We all enjoyed our meals. It’s not inexpensive, but it is Temple Bar, so the prices are aimed at tourist’s wallets. Dublin has some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten in, so to say this would be top of my list would be hard. However, it is a fun place to bring visitors who want to try a few variations of the humble spud.

No Smoking, No Vaping
No Smoking, No Vaping

**C interviewed Mr. Gallagher for his podcast, Excellent Ireland, and it is well worth a listen. He’s passionate about the past and future of the Irish potato: http://excellentireland.com/podcast/episode-4-padraic-og-gallagher/

Gallagher’s Boxty House