Cultures COLLIDE in Riverside

If you haven’t visited Urban Corner-Asian Fusion, get your chopsticks out and head to 5 Points to try its tasty, inexpensive menu featuring signature Vietnamese and Korean flavors.

Urban Corner is one of few places that serves pho in Riverside. They offer small ($8.50) and large ($9.50) sizes of the flavorful soup, which may be one of the most perfect meals, leaving you satisfied without making you feel too full. The giant bowl has noodles, your choice of protein—ranging from shrimp to tripe (I go with the rare steak)—and a plate of veggies and herbs, such as bean sprouts, sliced onions, jalapenos, basil and culantro (cilantro’s longer, leafier and stronger-tasting cousin). Even if spicy’s not your thing, throw in a slice or two of jalapeno! It adds a little kick to round out the flavorful broth—but not enough heat to make you cry. You’ll also find hoisin, sriracha, fish and/or soy sauce on the table at most places. Use chopsticks or a fork, but don’t leave a drop of broth in that bowl!

One of the more fun menu sections is “Vermicelli – Bún.” Bún usually refers to a rice noodle dish that includes a protein and a sliced, fried spring roll. My Pork Bún ($8.95) was delicious. Don’t be fooled by the wafts of fresh mint; I promise it will not taste like toothpaste. From the bottom up, there’s chopped lettuce and mint leaves covered with warm vermicelli noodles, then fresh veggies, like carrots, thinly sliced pork and egg roll. The noodles are undressed, but the pork’s slightly sweet peanut taste (reminiscent of pad Thai) dresses it up quite well. Kick it up a notch by dipping the noodles into the accompanying bowl of light, fragrant fish sauce with carrots. Don’t let that slightly funky flavor fool you; the combo of noodles, fish sauce, crunchy spring roll or rich pork fat gives you an amazing taste and texture in each bite.

Urban Corner’s Korean offerings include bulgogi ($10.95), a favorite dish in the cuisine. The thinly sliced beef (which is slightly oily) is piled high with equally thinly sliced roasted onions and carrots and served piping hot on a cast-iron plate. You may be super-hungry but, dear reader, I ask on behalf of your taste buds that you wait a moment before digging in. You need to be able to taste the ginger and brown sugar.

For an on-the-go option, commit to a banh mi and a boba tea. For $3.99, you get a vegan banh mi with tofu, and it’s pretty dang delicious. For meat-eaters, there’s beef ($4.99) or pork ($3.99). Banh mis feature pickled veggies and protein on a French style baguette, one of the culinary influences from the French occupation of Vietnam.

Vietnamese food is the perfect cuisine when you’re sick (or hungover—you know how you do). Keep that in mind as we go through the holiday (sickness/drinking) season. There’s no place like home, and there’s nothing like pho, to help you feel better faster.