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Pho Bo Vang is the Methuselah among South County’s budding Vietnamese restaurant scene and arguably the benchmark as pho slowly spreads into OC’s other southern cities. Though it’s reportedly changed hands a few times, it’s still family-operated. The restaurant looks as if it were surgically transplanted from Bolsa. It has mirrors as walls to make the small room look bigger than it is. Its customers, no matter from what demographic group they come, all know to order the pho with the jellied bits of tendon, to wrap the cha gio in the lettuce leaf before dunking in fish sauce, and to squirt the hoisin and Sriracha with abandon. The constant turnover results in one of South County’s better bowls of pho. The noodles flow naturally in the soup, not stuck in an unmovable clump as it often is at joints where no one orders the pho. Pho Bo Vang’s broth is bright, anise-scented, ladled scalding hot from giant stock pots you can see being skimmed and coddled through an open door into the kitchen. As toppings, the tai, sliced raw beef, can be a bit too chewy; but the tripe is flawless, the most tender stomach lining you’ll never need to chew. The beef balls, the house specialty, bites with a spring-loaded resilience. The rest of the menu is typical of all pho restaurants, almost standardized in the way it recites the familiar permutations of the cold noodle salad called bun, rice plates called com, and mi and hu tieu, the usual noodle soup alternatives to the pho. Though the combo rice plates tend to have more pickles than meat and use standard sticky jasmine rice instead of the much preferable com tam, the pork cake called cha is particularly good here--heavily seasoned with fish sauce and covered in an unnaturally orange rind made from egg yolk.
If Little Saigon is to Vietnamese restaurants as LA's seminal Chinatown is to Chinese food, then Lake Forest might be OC's San Gabriel Valley. For a bedroom community with a relatively low Asian population, Lake Forest now has more pho... More »
I have been searching the OC for an great Vietnamese Pho restaurant for about a year now... Behold, GPS came to the rescue and found this unexpected place! When the waiter has to ask - "are you sure you like fatty meats?" you know you've found your favorite Pho restaurant. Also TIP: order the XL size for the Pho if you are decently hungry and belonging to the male specimen.
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