Review: Sprout’s Springroll & Pho
September 24, 2009
Address: 780 East Road to Six Flags, Arlington, TX
Rich and Alana both ordered: California springrolls, grilled shrimp springrolls, and veggie pho.
Plus: Ridiculously fresh food. Delicious broth. Creative, huge springrolls. Inexpensive.
Minus: We found a mushroom in our soup!
Rating: 10 happy bellies out of 10
Alana sez: The morning after flying to Texas for the Dallas Cowboys’ home opener, Rich and I were eager to tour the NFL’s newest stadium and take in a Rangers game. But first: breakfast.
Arlington is not a very pedestrian-friendly city so we asked Curtis, our hotel shuttle driver and apparently Vernon Wells’s BFF, to drop us off somewhere in the vicinity of Tasty Town. We soon found ourselves in Lincoln Square, surrounded by T.G.I.Friday’s, Chili’s, and Hooters. “Thanks,” Curtis.
Eventually we stumbled upon a tiny Vietnamese spot that seemed out of place among the surrounding chain giants. Since this was one of those rare occasions where soup for breakfast seemed like a good idea, we headed into Sprout’s.
We were surprised by the mod decor we found inside, which was very pretty and much more welcoming than the generic ’80s banquet hall vibe that most Vietnamese restaurants go with. At the direction of our friendly server, we grabbed a booth and settled in to look over the menu. Before we had even finished reading the appetizers, we found two tall glasses of Diet Coke with plenty of crushed ice placed in front of us. We were off to a good start.
Sprout’s offers up a wide variety of creative fresh springrolls, with everything from crispy chicken to grilled tilapia stuffed into rice paper wrappers with lettuce, fresh herbs, and vermicelli noodles. We eventually decided to try the California (avocado and imitation crab) and the grilled shrimp versions. For our mains, we were all about the vegetable pho (noodle soup).
While we waited for our apps and enjoyed some fun retro tunes, our server brought out some Diet Coke refills before we even noticed we were empty — it’s the little things like this that take a restaurant experience over the top. Before long, our springrolls were placed on the table and Rich and I came to understand what “Texas-sized” really means. These things were huge — each springroll was at least twice the size of the largest ones I’ve been served in Canada! Dipping our overstuffed rolls into the provided sauces and condiments, we found them to be fresh, toothsome, and extremely tasty. The grilled shrimp roll in particular had an amazing char-grilled flavour that was complimented nicely by the pineapple dipping sauce. Just as we finished our rolls and felt like we couldn’t take another bite, our soup arrived.
I’m usually disappointed by vegetarian pho — without the usual chicken or beef broth, the animal-friendly versions tend to be bland, bland, bland. As such, I didn’t have high expectations for Sprout’s offering. This skepticism was shattered as soon as my pho was placed in front of me — steaming hot, and accompanied by crisp, fresh sprouts, Thai basil leaves, fresh lime wedges, and bright greeen jalapeno slices, this looked like one kickass bowl of soup. My first taste of Sprout’s broth did not disappoint. It’s rich vegetable flavour was enhanced by the sweet basil and the subtle spiciness of the jalapeno slices. A squeeze of lime juice took it over the top. Normally, I add hoisin and sriracha to my (typically flavourless) veggie pho broth. Not this time — this was a soup base that could stand on its own. Swimming in this amazing broth, I found the freshest possible vegetables, big slabs of flash-fried tofu, and perfectly cooked vermicelli. And a single mushroom, which I placed on my side dish with disgust. Mushrooms are Satan’s food.
In Toronto, most vegetarians I know point to the Golden Turtle as the place to find the best veggie pho in the city. I’ve tried Golden Turtle’s pho, and it pales in comparison to Sprout’s. I highly recommend that any vegetarian Vietnamese food fans who find themselves in Dallas/Forth Worth take a special trip to Arlington to try out Sprout’s. It was easily the restaurant highlight of our trip.
Rich sez: Who knew SOUP for BREAKFAST would be so good. Also on that same day, I watched an episode of King of the Hill, which is based in Arlington, in Arlington. What a great day.
RICH TIP OF THE DAY: After putting jalapenos in your pho, remember not to rub your eyes.