Ryan and I uncovered a gem of a restaurant in University City. Truth be told, it wasn’t a recent discovery. A year or two ago, we wandered into Pho Long, located at 8627 Olive Blvd, on a Saturday evening, glanced at the menu, and left after realizing there wasn’t much offered aside from pho, which neither of us were feeling that evening.
It wasn’t until my lovely Patch editor Myra suggested I check out Pho Long that Ryan and I decided to pay the place another visit, this time to stay and eat! Immediately upon entering the small restaurant inconspicuously located in one of the many strip malls on Olive Boulevard, we noticed that the place had been redone. The entire restaurant had been repainted, redecorated, and rearranged since we last stopped in. Though it isn’t about to win any decorating awards, the space is simple and clean and patrons can choose to sit at a table, the bar, or the counter facing the windows.
From the start, we were impressed with our service. There were only a few other parties in the place, presumably regulars, and upon learning that we were first-timers, our server went above and beyond. She graciously walked us through each of the menu items (a more extended menu than last time, I might add), patiently answering our questions about some of the more exotic sounding foods (Durian Shake, Oxtail Pho, etc.)
Though the place is primarily known for its pho, which makes up 90% of the menu, they also have a few rice dishes, a few appetizers, and several varieties of shakes, in addition to beer and soft drinks. Our server gave us an order of spring rolls on the house, which came two to an order and were impressively large and chock full of rice, noodles, and tofu. When she brought the avocado shake we ordered, she also brought us a sample of the durian shake that we’d been questioning her about. Both were unique and delightful, mild tasting and thin. We aren’t sure exactly how either was made, but we suspect it contained more milk than ice cream, if any.
We filled up on the shakes and spring rolls, only to find giant bowls of steaming pho delivered shortly thereafter. To sample the variety, we ordered a traditional beef pho with rice noodles and flank steak as well as a vegetable pho with glass noodles (made of potato and green beans!) and fried tofu. As newcomers to pho, we were surprised when our server next carried out a plate brimming with bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, and lime. She again patiently explained to us the process of filling our pho with the desired toppings and then adding our choice of sauces that were sitting on the table (a hoisin sauce and three chili sauces).
After our lesson, we eagerly filled our bowls as desired and begin scooping up the contents with our chopsticks. For a good ten minutes, conversation slowed. We were too busy savoring each bite to even make small talk. I was pleasantly surprised by how chock full of vegetables (broccoli & cauliflower) my pho was, and Ryan and I both loved the tender steak in his.
Though we originally thought we would never be able to finish, both of us came darn close to leaving little more than leftover broth in our bowls. My utter satisfaction of Pho Long was pushed over the top when our server brought fortune cookies out with our check (which came to less than $25, impressive for such significant portions!). Ryan’s already asking when we can return!