Boba Fête

Our Latest Obsession: Mangonada Bubble Tea at Pho 290

Could this Vietnamese take on a Mexican drink be the most Houston thing ever?

By Alice Levitt August 12, 2016

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The mangonada bubble tea, in full, Technicolor glory.

Image: Alice Levitt

All I wanted was to sample the new Vietnamese spot in Lazy Brook after a nearby doctor's appointment. Some pho perhaps. Maybe a banh mi to take home. I never expected to encounter something that would make me rethink Mutt City cuisine. I wasn't expecting to find a mangonada on the succinct bubble tea menu at Pho 290, but that doesn't mean my soul hadn't been somehow invisibly craving it.

We already have the Cajun-Viet fusion of countless crawfish specialists. Tacos in Houston come filled with recipes from practically every culture. But what seemed so obvious, a marriage of two of the city's most dominant ethnic groups, Mexican and Vietnamese, was more elusive. But there it was, on the list posted on the wall, below avocado and strawberry-banana smoothies.

Of course, this wouldn't have mattered so much had it been anything but an excellent drink. It was. Each sip betrayed the sweetness of the mango, the salty-tangy-spicy notes of chamoy. The boba themselves were softer than ideal, but combined with chunks of tender mango in each sip, this made some sense, perhaps even more so when emerging from a straw caked in deep-red tamarind paste.

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Korean beef short ribs, $8.

Image: Alice Levitt

The fusion didn't end there. When I asked my server what the restaurant's specialties were (I was leaning toward a rice plate with marinated quail and "special sauce"), he pointed me toward the galbi. And he wasn't wrong. I couldn't help but overeat the tender, sweet and gingery beef ribs. A few more pickled veggies wouldn't have hurt, but nonetheless, I can't argue too much with a plate filled with that much beef for $8. It also came with a side of pho broth, speckled with scallions and cilantro, but more salty than beefy or aromatic.

Of course, none of that really mattered. Not when I was sipping a piece of minor culinary history.

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