Customers bow over the steam rising from huge china bowls of noodle soup at Veranda Noodle Bar. With patient pleasure, they start swooping up ribbons of thin noodles with chopsticks. Since slurping is entirely essential, dining takes on an aura of play as they poke and prod, diving after wontons and fishing out slivers of duck.

A big spoon is set nearby with a fork and knife, in case you’d rather catch your dinner that way.

This noodle bar opened in October across the street from its parent restaurant, Veranda Thai Cuisine. You can order Thai and Chinese dishes, but the prospect of soup is made more alluring as the staff carries those bowls carefully to the tables from the kitchen.

Additions to the soups are served on plates – perhaps shredded lettuce and bean sprouts and a wedge of lime with roasted pork soup with shrimp and chicken wontons. With pho, the Vietnamese soup that is a specialty at Veranda Noodle Bar, you’ll get basil, a long dark-green leaf the owner calls saw cilantro for its serrated edge (or ngo gai in Vietnamese), slices of fresh jalapeno and bean sprouts.

If you arrive here thirsty, hot tea is free with the meal – but the drinks list holds classic cocktails, such as a Mai Tai ($7) with dark rum, Triple Sec, grenadine and pineapple juice, or a Pina Colada ($7) with rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice. A bartender was shaking up mixtures behind the bar as a basketball game played on a flat-screen TV.

Five Asian beers, two local beers and both domestic and imported brews are sold. The brief wine list offers whites and reds by the glass for $5 to $7.

Summer spring rolls with vegetables ($4.95) are handsomely constructed with flags of dark-green scallion bound tightly under the rice wrapper next to imprisoned mint leaves. Light on the noodles, the rolls are stuffed with cool sliced lettuce, and can be dipped into a peanuty, hoisin and fish sauce dip.

Scallions figure in other appetizers, like grilled beef scallion ($6.95), in which thin slices of meat are wrapped around tender scallion greens and grilled, softening the mild onion and deepening the savor of the beef.

Shrimp, chicken or pork grilled on skewers of sugarcane ($6.95), vegetable, chicken or shrimp tempura, Veranda ravioli with ground shrimp and chicken inside a wonton, and fried spring rolls are more ways to nosh before the soup.

The roast pork soup ($10.95) held a clear, pale-yellow broth, scented with cilantro. The thin sliced pork is tender and rimmed with a traditional coating tha includes honey and red food coloring. Slipping under thin yellow noodles made from mung beans, the wontons held a substantial disc of delicious chopped chicken and shrimp.

Hai Pham, owner of both Veranda Thai and Veranda Noodle Bar, is the chef, and his wife and business partner, Sonka Pham, also cooks. Both are Vietnamese.

A spice mixture made with cilantro seeds, basil seeds, cinnamon sticks, star anise and pepper roasted in a wok and put in a cloth bag, is used in the stock pot, Sonka Pham said. The broth for the pork and chicken soups is made with a whole chicken and pork bones.

The broth for pho is made with beef bones and bone marrow.

Pho can be ordered with rare steak, well-done flank steak and/or meatballs. An early menu listed tendon, the cartilage that holds muscle to bone. But according to Sonka Pham, ”People made a mistake and they thought it was fat, so we took it out. But we decided to use a little in the meatball. It gives a nice crunchy taste.”

”You have to simmer it for a whole day because it’s very hard. The more you simmer it, it gets very soft,” she said. ”Vietnamese, we love that.”

Mainers can be conservative folks, but a taste should convince them this is another new thing worthwhile for dinner.

The pho ($9.95) is pure and plain, marvelous in its simplicity and wonderfully augmented by basil, endowing the meat broth with a touch of clove or eucalyptus, and cilantro, its own perfume fading in the heat. A bit of the thin-sliced jalapeno is enough to start a burn, while the crunchy bean sprouts cool.

Thin sliced beef in wavering rounds and elongated slices of flank steak are both tender and juicy. And each bite of course involves lengths of resilient rice noodles, dripping and slithering on the chopsticks.

Beef vermicelli ($9.95), also served in a bowl, came with a cup of sweet/sharp dressing to pour on as your taste saw fit. The beef was roasted to a crisp and slightly more – even charred – highly flavored with spices and tender, while the smooth, skinny noodles added a blank canvas of flavor and complicated texture to each bite.

More crunchy lettuce and cilantro flavored the noodles and meat, and the dressing heightened it or not, allowing customers to keep it just as plain as they like.

Coconut ice cream ($4) was a creamy and wonderful way to end a meal, which could also conclude with fried ice cream, green-tea ice cream or canned Asian fruits. 

N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of ”Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s Web site,


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