John and I have been talking about Cherry Hill as one of the most underrated, under-appreciated foodie towns in New Jersey. Despite its rich array of restaurants that include almost every ethnicity you can think of, most people can’t see past the suburban sprawl and chain restaurants.
One place that puts an exclamation point on this statement is Pho Barclay Noodle House. Have you ever noticed it? You might have passed it hundreds of times driving on Route 70 without ever seeing it. Located in a demure little strip mall called “Barclay Pavilion West” (that also houses an “Asian Bistro” and an Italian joint), this casual restaurant is quietly serving up one of the most simple culinary delights that tend to be a bit rare around these parts. Driving back on a cold,rainy night on our way back from an event in Philadelphia, we knew it was the perfect moment to stop in to finally satisfy our curiosity. They were getting ready to close shortly and we were tired, chilled, hungry, and in a rush to pick up our yung’uns from the grandparents’; yet we’d soon find out this place fit the bill perfectly. We quickly ordered two bowls of pho: “Steak and Meatball” for me, the “House Special” (with steak, tripe, beef tendon, and other goodies) for John. Five minutes later, we were joyfully slurping up the heavenly broth, adding only a few accompanying fresh bean sprouts, lime, and sriracha sauce. Simply picture yourself on a cold night over this magical bowl filled with long, toothy rice noodles, tender and thin beef slices,savory, garlicky beef meatballs, scallions, and cilantro. You control all the extras, as they are placed on the table alongside you: sriracha sauce, hoisin, sliced fresh green chilies, basil, and bean sprouts. As fast as fast food, yet as soul-satisfying as a tasting menu at the French Laundry.
There’s other things on the menu that we’ll have to go back for, of course: Summer Rolls, Grilled Beef in Grape Leaves,Shrimp and Lemongrass to name just a few. But if you’re in need of a shot in the arm, maybe a little something to get your mojo back during these winter doldrums, I can’t think of a better place.
65 Barclay Pavilion West, Rt. 70, Cherry Hill, NJ (856) 216-8050. PhoBarclay.com