The Boston Phoenix
April 1 - 8, 1999

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Star Anise

Pho comes to Mission Hill

by Liz Zack

If it weren't for the plastic purple orchids and the cafeteria-style table-and-chair sets, the month-old Star Anise could pass for a swanker and more expensive place. Between two beautiful exposed-brick walls hangs a huge steaming neon bowl captioned with the word that's most familiarly associated with Vietnamese restaurants: pho.

This eatery on the edge of Mission Hill serves authentic, few-frills Vietnamese cuisine for just above Asian-dive prices. There's nothing dive-ish about the food. For appetizers, we liked the spring rolls ($2.95), in which two butterflied shrimp glowed through milky rice wrappers. But the main event is the pho (pronounced "feu," not "foe"); we enjoyed the pho ga ($4.25), a chicken-based soup infused with the restaurant's namesake spice, seasoned with flat-leaf parsley and cilantro floating like lily pads on the broth. Vegetables stand out for their crisp, al dente preparation (a good indication of freshness); we really liked the "vegetable crispy noodle pancake" ($6.25), in which the crunch of the lightly browned noodle base echoes the snap of the veggies above. Vietnamese-born chef Kim Do knows that many of her patrons may not be pho-savvy and has therefore filled her menu with selections from all over Asia; you can get pad Thai or lo mein noodles as easily as you can get Vietnamese food.

Star Anise, located at 34 Huntington Avenue (Brigham Circle), in Mission Hill, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 713-3951.

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