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Restaurant & Bar Guide

Cong Tu Bot

Cong Tu Bot information

// Location57 Washington Ave.
Portland, ME 04101

// Hours 5-10 p.m. Thursday to Monday

// Contact207-221-8022

// Price Range$$

// Cuisine Type Vietnamese,

// Features Lunch, Take Out,

// Reviews

⇢ 'Coffee nerds' use their noodles to break delicious new grounds

Walk down Portland’s Washington Avenue at night, and you’ll pass a restaurant in the old Nissen Bakery building that appears to have no name – just a blue neon sign that reads, “Pho.” You’ve found Cong Tu Bot, a new Vietnamese noodle restaurant owned by chef Vien Dobui, his wife Jessica Sheahan, and their sous chef and business partner, Joseph Zohn. The space is sparse and whimsical, with mix-and-match concrete flooring, pastel metal chairs that squeal in protest as you slide them back, and a gaudy electronic waterfall that fills the bathroom with 8-bit sounds of rushing water. It’s cool and casual and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The same can be said of the food. Dobui and Zohn inflect their dishes with regional Vietnamese character and frequently borrow from other traditions – especially Japanese cooking. To make their extraordinarily light pho ga, they use the fat, fettuccine-like rice noodles frequently found in northern Vietnam and build each bowl from discrete, individually prepared components, much the way a ramen chef might. The same is true of their smoky pork sausage bun cha, which uses the sort of garlicky, sweetened fish sauce dipping broth you might find in Hanoi, but thinned out to a volume that recalls Japanese tsukemen. Tread carefully with the sides; they can be a bit too salty. Stick instead to the light, oniony goi cai bop cabbage salad, or the sweet-and-sticky hu tieu xao, a vigorously spicy flat-noodle stir-fry that will make you blot your forehead, then go back for more.