Over the last couple of years, you might have noticed that Denver is suddenly awash in Asian-inspired cuisine. The pho joints on Federal Boulevard and the Korean BBQ spots in Aurora have been rolling for decades, but the new players in the game have seized on (expensive) Asian street food with great success. Some of these we like, and some charge $10-15 an hour for ping-pong. P17, however, is no newcomer to the scene and has been holding it down for over eight years. Named for the dividing line between north and south Vietnam (Parallel 17), chef/owner Mary Nguyen’s French-Vietnamese bistro is a super chill neighborhood go-to.
Or at least it was.
Here's the thing about P17. This used to be one of our favorite little lunch spots in all of Denver. Not only for the pho, but for other Vietnamese-inspired dishes like banh mi sliders and excellent summer rolls. And then they went and completely blew up the menu last year, allegedly to keep up with the changing trends in Denver's restaurant scene - whatever that means. Now, along with the pho, you'll find things like tacos. And risotto. And shrimp & grits. And a kale salad. And f*cking samosas. The dinner menu currently has no less than 40 menu items on it, and maybe four of those are worth eating. The same goes for lunch.
The worst part of it all is that we know this place can be better. It was better. And we're not the only ones that feel that way. On our most recent visit, there was a daily specials menu with some of the old menu items on it, "back by popular demand," also known as "because people are complaining."
We're not restaurateurs, and we're certainly aware of what a difficult business this can be. But we'd like to make a suggestion to P17. Go all in on Vietnamese. Build your menu around pho (start with bringing back the chicken broth version), and give us things like curry and bu cha and other excellent noodle dishes.
If you're really paying attention to Denver's restaurant scene, you'll notice that we don't have much of that.
Luckily, even though the menu has changed, the pho has not. This is still one of our favorite bowls of soup to eat in this city, and it will be one of yours too. They used to also have a chicken pho that's now been jettisoned, so add that to our list of grievances.
These will do just fine. They're not too greasy and just enough porky to get the job done.
We've always liked the banh mi here at P17. They used to come in slider form, but the full-sized versions are just as good. This one is packed with pork belly and all the veggies necessary to make you happy.
Full of caramelized pineapple and kale. Nope.
Another one of the few Vietnamese dishes, and another one we like. The green apple in the mix keeps things fresh and crunchy.
Why? What market research did you do that told you samosas and tacos and pho should be in the same room together?
Now for the Korean part of the show, we went for this hot pot due to P17's strength in the "hot broth" category. It was...pretty good.
I am so confused.