You walk into the bottom left corner of the L shaped space, and are waved to and seated at one of the tables lined up in the narrow space. Grey, green, orange hues surround you, with blocks of colour on the walls, and matching chairs to go with. Orange lamps cast a cheery glow near the bar area, and fake bamboo displays adorn the walls.
To get to what I came for: Pho. The menu offers six types of Pho, the Vietnamese broth: one with rare steak, one with beef meatballs, one with both – the meatballs and the steak, one with rare steak, brisket AND beef meatballs (have a cow, please), one with shrimp and mushrooms, and the last one, Pho Ga, which we order, with with slices of shredded chicken.
A good bowl of Pho should envelop you in its basil and lemongrass infused goodness, soothe your cold, take away your blues, and generally put a smile on your face. This one was a far cry from this manna to the soul that I was hoping for. The bowl is a pretty sight, steaming with promise and scallions floating atop. Alas, your olfactory senses are immediately disappointed because there is no fragrance to speak of. The chicken slices are chewy, overcooked within an inch of their lives. The noodles are decently cooked, and reasonably palatable in their slender starchy substantial selves. The broth has nothing but scallions in it. The dish is accompanied by sprouts, some lemon, and a few pieces of jalapeño peppers. I suggest dumping the lot in to give this utterly bland broth some flavor. Pho isn’t and shouldn’t be overwhelming in its flavors, but the simplicity doesn’t mean doing away with taste.
Let’s move onto the rest. We ordered the Chicken Cha Gio, or egg rolls with chicken, carrot, and taro root fried in a wanton wrapper and the Banh Xeo, a crêpe with chicken and shrimp for appetizers prior to our encounter to this Pho pas.
The egg rolls are fine, crispy and quickly polished off in a few bites. I couldn't taste the chicken, carrot, or taro quite frankly, but a well-fried wanton tastes delicious regardless of contents in many instances. The Banh Xeo is interesting in that the batter is made of lentils, like an Indian dosa, but the stuffing is unremarkable.
We also order a pork Banh mi, which arrives in the traditional crispy baguette. The pork is chewy just as the chicken in the Pho was, so much so that I don’t finish. Not that there is any excuse for tasteless and chewy meat, but sometimes a Banh mi can scrape by on its cilantro-pickled carrots-cucumber fillings alone, but not so in this case.
For dessert, much to my surprise, the crispy Vietnamese banana fritters were actually good. They seem to have their wanton frying down at Indochine Vien, because these were encased in the same wrappers as the Chicken Cha Gio. Excellent with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and at our request, both honey and chocolate sauce.
Service is very friendly and amenable, though this particular weekday evening was very slow for the restaurant. A quarter of an hour into our meal, we were the only customers there.
Go to Indochine Vien for the banana fritters, and perhaps down a Vietnamese coffee with them, but stay away if your Vietnamese comfort food (banh mi, pho, etcetera) expectations are high. Prices are very reasonable.
3110 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039
Telephone: 323 667 9591
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
RATING: 1.5 OUT OF 5 COCONUTS