Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Charlie Wong Saigon Garden - Kalispell, MT

This is what a bowl of pho looks like in Kalispell, Montana. I had it at a restaurant called Charlie Wong Saigon Garden. Charlie Wong, as you might have already guessed, served not just pho, but also Chinese food of the sweet-and-sour-pork-and-chow-mein variety.

But while this pho may look average at first glance, it was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. Since Vietnamese restaurants are still a rarity around these parts, the basil served on the plate with the bean sprouts was not Thai basil; it was Italian basil, the kind you put into pesto.

Also, the broth was more sugary than herbal and the rice noodles were pre-cut into two-inch lengths, suggesting that the chef designed it to be eaten by people who are used to soup spoons, not chopsticks.

In fact, chopsticks aren’t automatically supplied with the bowl. I had to get mine by going up to the counter and specifically asking for a pair.

What this pho didn't have in short supply, however, was meat. There was about a half pound of beef in the bowl--an amount equal to a decent steak dinner. And it was sliced into thick chunks, every piece tender and soft.

So was it an authentic bowl of pho? No, not if you're judging it against pho from cities where the Vietnamese population is larger than the family that owns the restaurant; but for Montana, it was everything it needed to be. And if you ate it after a day of hiking in the frigid wilderness of Glacier National Park like I did, you'd agree with me that there's no better bowl of pho in the entire state.

Charlie Wong Saigon Garden
1645 U.S. 93 S
Kalispell, MT 59901
(406) 755-5290

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