Austin Cook

Equinox Staff

Pho Keene Great is a Vietnamese restaurant located on Central Square in Keene. It is between the City Hall office and Luca’s. The front of the restaurant is nondescript. There is no outdoor seating, no decorations, no advertisement, or visible signage from the street. There is a small sign hung above the door that is visible from the sidewalk. It looks like it is part of the City Hall office and not a restaurant.

The inside felt more like a small nightclub. Much of the interior is black; the ceiling, walls, bar stools, and even chairs are black. The bar takes up a good portion of the interior with a few tables and booths positioned at the far end of the restaurant. Bamboo shelving behind the bar showcases the top shelf liquor bottles. The bottles are lit up with pastel shades of purple and yellow. The bar itself is made of a lightly colored wood that really contrasts against the black metal bar stools. Even though the bar is at the entrance, and it is large, it is not what you first notice when you walk in. The long wall that runs along the side of the restaurant is wallpapered with a large black and white line design of foliage. This is really eye catching.

I sat at the bar and the bartender gave me menu. The menu is very limited. You could choose from 2 appetizers of spring rolls, and 3 entrees. The entrees are a choice of Bánh Xèo: a savory crepe with shrimp; Bánh mì: a baguette sandwich with a choice of chicken, steak, or tofu; Phở: choice of noodles in broth with meat and vegetables.

I chose the Bánh mì. The sandwich meat was tasty. It had a unique peppery flavor. It was not too strong. I really liked the seasoning. The pickled vegetables complimented the spice and gave the sandwich a fresh taste and nice texture. The sauce didn’t add much and was more greasy than anything. I didn’t like the cucumber. It was cut too thin and longways. It was more like a cucumber shaving than a slice. The baguette was very stale, and fell apart.

This sandwich needed a different sauce to add a more creamy taste. The texture of the greasy sauce was unappetizing. Any aioli style sauce would have helped. A chipotle aioli would have been a good choice as it would have added a nice smokey aspect to the sandwich. Also, either cutting  cucumber thicker or leaving it out would have helped. Lastly and most important, the stale bread hurt the sandwich. Having a fresh baguette roll would have made this a great sandwich.

Even though the portion was a good size and was more than I could eat in a single sitting, I found it over priced. This sandwich cost me $14. This price was only the sandwich. All other entrees seemed equally as high priced. Now I have spent $14 on a burger, but it normally includes fries, toppings (like bacon and cheese), and a drink.

The service at the restaurant was very good. My server explained the dishes very well, and shared with me what was popular. My order came out of the kitchen within minutes. Everyone looked neat and clean.

I found Pho Keene Great expensive and even though I liked the meat, I was disappointed by the stale roll. The menu was also just too limited for me. There is a potential for this place, and there are still a few kinks that need to be addressed before I can say this is a good restaurant. I might go back again after giving them time to make a few adjustments.

Austin Cook can be

contacted at acook@kscequinox.com