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Eating pho at Crown Escrow

I mean, Cafe Pho. But where is it, you might ask when you get to the address you’ve meticulously tapped into your GPS. The broken sign outside 2841 West Sunset still lifelessly claims the location’s escrow predecessors. Peek inside, and you’ll see a vibrant scene humming with clientele. No murky deposits here, but $7.50 will get you a wonderful, fragrant bowl of pho. 

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It is a narrow slip of a restaurant. I stumbled upon it accidentally when I was on my way to dine at Rambutan next door. A veritable flock of Silverlakers milled around outside. A club or bar of some mysterious sort with no name outside, I wondered?

I nudged my way past, dodging mildly evil looks to see what on earth the big deal was, to peer in. Huge, clear orbs of light dangle atop each of the little almost-but-not-quite-communal tables lined up in the canteen-like space. I grabbed a menu to see what was drawing the throngs. It is succinct. There’s pho. And there’s more pho. Homestyle. Oh yes, and a few other choice items like banh xeo (Vietnamese crêpes), summer rolls, and a selection of cold noodles. 

I’ve been to Cafe Pho several times since then. At $7.50, the pho is a wonderful deal. Service is prompt, and within a few minutes of your order, you find yourself staring down into a big bowl of rice noodles and soup.

The vegetarian pho (which I got twice) is excellent. It’s a simple blend of mild but tasty broth, a large dollop of noodles, some bokchoi, all topped off with some waifish enoki slow dancing phantasmagorically. A platter of sprouts, mint leaves, cut limes, and jalapeño peppers lets you decide how much of each you’d like to unceremoniously dump (as I did) or delicately place (as a friend did) into your pho. A few segments of jalapeño give it a good kick, and I highly recommend a solid serving of the mint which really brings out the flavour of the other ingredients. The server will bring you some cilantro if that’s more your thing. 

Order the Goi Cuon, rice paper wrapped spring rolls with bits of lemongrass infused steak and juicy shrimp, all rolled into greens as an appetizer (not that you need one, the proprietors aren’t stingy with their pho). The rolls arrive with some delicious peanut sauce. 

Speaking of sauces, there’s a nice selection perched on each table: hoisin, sriracha, and a chilli-garlic concoction.

To drink, the Vietnamese hot coffee. It arrives in a little individual coffee filter. The coffee drips into the sweetened decadent steamed condensed milk, so wait to stir it up. It is potentially a bit too saccharine if you’re a black coffee drinker, but try it anyway. There's also a decent limeade available.  

A few notes: Tuck away your plastic because Cafe Pho only takes cash. Parking is available in the lot outside, or on the street. Service is quick, and you aren’t expected to linger over an hour as there is almost always a short line developing near the entrance.

CAFE PHO

2841 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA

Telephone: 213 413 0888

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, everyday.

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