Pho-king Alright

Silverlake has recently welcomed a new restaurant into the fold, in walking distance from almost anybody who calls the eastside neighborhood their home. Located at the corner of Sunset and Silverlake Blvd, Pho Cafe (2841 W. Sunset Blvd.) opened up a few months ago with relatively little fanfare. But the noodle house has become an instant hit, its minimal and clean design glowing thru the restaurant window during the night with a noticeable orange glow thanks to the mod seating (and check out those keen fishbowl lamps!). And like the mosquitos pulled in by the entrancing glow of your bugzapper hanging from your trailer home, the folks (with an undeniably noticeable high indie hipster count) come out in droves to get themselves a bowl of pho, cha gio (vietnamese egg rolls), or goi cuon (spring rolls). Everything is freshly made, with a visibly genuine vietnamese cooking staff, with a simple to navigate menu for those making their maiden voyage on the high seas of vietnamese cooking. Highly recommended is the banh xeo. An appetizer which could easily be a light dinner in itself, this is a delicious pan fried crepe (the pancake is made of rice flour, turmeric, coconut juice and spring onion) filled with meat or tofu, mushrooms and beansprouts, served alongside paper thin sliced circular sheets of rice paper, translucent like damp tracing paper. Throw in some sliced cucumber, a piece of crepe, julieened carrots, and some vietnamese herbs, then dip into a tasty peanut sauce, and what you experience is a delicious combination of a crunchy and soft, clean and starchy. I could easily and happily eat two of these in a sitting…and likely will one day in the near future.

What is disappointing is the pho, mostly because the broth is a flat note in flavour. Where an excellent bowl of pho is initially a simple flavour, with each spoonful its nuanced character begins to become more evident, and next thing you know you’re pushing the bowl upward to get every last drop of the beef broth. The pho here seems to be missing something that’s holding it back from being memorable. The rare beef is served too well cooked and is perhaps too lean to offer that tantalizing first bite that I look forward to enjoying with a bowl of pho. Also the portions are smaller than what I’m accustomed to, and the noodles were clumped together too much to enjoy in the hurried noodle eating fashion I practice. Next time I’ll try the chicken stock version, which comes with a garlic-ginger seasoning that might add a bit more complexity in flavour.

Overall, I give Pho Cafe a thumbs up for introducing a good alternative for late night dining within the borders of Silverlake/Los Feliz/Echo Park. There are a few better pho houses and vietnamese restaurants, but you won’t find a cleaner more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than this joint. Despite the overabundance of Converse All-Stars and Death Cab crowd attire, I’ll be back to give it another go next time I get a hunkering for some Vietnamese eats, especially since its vegetarian friendly for my Emily. And best of all, in walking distance of our flat!

15 thoughts on “Pho-king Alright”

  1. Greg beat me too it! On his reccomendation I went there yesterday and picked up some take out for dinner. Good stuff for sure. The vegitarian spring rolls were amazing, downside: CASH ONLY! What the shit is up with silverlake and cash only places? I don’t expect an answer to that obvious question but it fucking SUCKS. I went there ordered, and then learned i didn’t have enough cash, so I had to leave get cash, and come back. it was a nightmare.

    On a side note, their food came with fortune cookies (?) and mine was: “You enjoy sports, horses and gambeling but not to excess.”

  2. Yes, the beef pho is a bit lackluster, but the chicken pho is OUT OF THIS WORLD. Whenever I need some sort of soul food pick-me-up, it’s their Pho Ga which I go running to.

  3. two things:

    what exactly defines death cab crowd attire?

    someone needs to mention chameau on hyperion. next to (and under) the body builders gym. that and mexico city were the my favorite places before i left los feliz. the eggplant dip is excellent, and you bring your own wine…

  4. Death Cab for Cutie…the indie band darlings (whom I like myself enough). When I was departing from dinner, a whole slew of indie kids were walking in, and they looked like they were being directly poured from the adjacent Silverlake Lounge into the restaurant. Bedhead hair, too-cool-for-school clothes. I sometimes forget that the eastside is so thick with indie hipsters since I’m not part of the scene.

    Chameau! I’ve been trying to eat there for ages (I actually dined there before it was Chameau, but I forgot the name of the previous restaurant). The few times I’ve tried to eat there, its been closed; they keep unusual hours it seems. Its especially frustrating because I am a member of Body Builder’s Gym, so I always peek inside as I go by. Will report back once given a chance.

    Mexico City…not too fond of. With all the wonderful authentic mexican fare in the eastside, I haven’t been all too impressed with their american palate friendly menu. But I’ll give the eggplant dip a try if given a chance! Sounds yum.

  5. yeah, i like the newish death cab album pretty well too, i just didn’t know what they looked like as i’ve never seen a one of ’em live or dead.

    i’ll give you that mexico city can be spotty, i hated the place for the longest time then fell in love with the combo plate and the mole cheese enchilada. and chameau’s hours suck, thursday thru saturday only i believe. i’ve had things there that were only OK, but enough good stuff that i kept coming back. good olives too…

  6. i’ve been going to pho for a while and i have to say it gets worse the longer you go (its actually been open for almost a year)…more bland….more gummy. some friends are designing the space next door which will be a bar so that could be cool

    rambutan thai on the other hand has gotten better.

    i was really excited about malo but the service is so damn bad.

  7. Oh wow, I had no idea Pho Cafe was around for that long. Yeah, I think the pho is a bit lackluster, but perhaps its been toned down for the non-vietnamese customers?

    I’ve been meaning to rey Rambutan Thai also, but I’ve been loyal to Suriyo here on my side of the neighborhood. Any notable dishes?

    I ate at Malo once. Once and no more. Horrible, mostly due to the waitstaff (they can hardly pronounce the food they’re serving and had no idea what the dishes were comprised of). And the food was bland and not worth the price. I did like the fresh made chips tho.

  8. I love this joint. If you’re like me and you’re carbophobic and don’t eat beef, you can order pho ga with no noodles and extra chicken, and ROCK OUT WITH YOUR SPOON OUT

  9. Had lunch there the other day, and it took me a minute to figure out why it looked so familiar!

    Good stuff — the chicken pho was great.

  10. Pho King is overpriced Vietnamese for the trendy. I live in Silverlake and of course want more options, but the results are definitely week. The chicken pho lacks enough chicken, cilantro, and scallions to make it worthy. Also, the place has absolutely no ventilation so it’s always hot as heck in that joint. The place looks great though.

  11. Worst ever. By accident I ordered a #4 instead of a three and the waitress would not take the food back or replace. Turns out if you order the wrong thing you are forced to deal with it and pay for it. The waiters are rude the pho is below average and it is way to bright in there, but if you enjoy a hipster environment its the place for you.

  12. can you please change the address of chameau restaurant to 339 n. fairfax – la, ca 90036
    323.951.0039 we are opened 6 days a week , closed mondays – from 6pm – 11pm

  13. you negative people sound like a bunch of miserable LA people..get out of america- all on crack and credit and eating way too much salt and taking too many bad drugs….

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