Soup will always be high on the list of comfort food dishes. And the Vietnamese version of the chicken noodle soup is called pho. But with the proliferation of many Vietnamese places serving this staple, it might be hard for the wandering tongue to pick and choose a favorite. So when someone says their pho is Absolutely Phobulous then by all means take the road less traveled and be enticed by a name that says gimmick written all over it.
Small space with very confused decor strewn all over the wall, with busy wait staff that will unfortunately not wait for you. Look long and hard, decide without doubt and swiftly or you will be passed by without any regret.
The menu has more items than the usual Vietnamese pho places. With appetizers, salads, vermicelli and even baguettes and dessert. Fresh spring rolls, vegetarian vermicelli (rice noodles served cold), pho beef combo, baguette sandwich, and Thai iced tea for everyone.
The fresh spring rolls come fat (and we do mean about 2in in diameter each). It was filled with huge shrimp and plenty of vermicelli noodles to easily become an entree vs just an appetizer. The carrots, bean sprouts, and cilantro were crisp and fresh. And instead of the peanut sauce, this time it was served with hoisin which lent it a different sweetness, much different from what you'll get from the shrimp and vegetables.
The vegetarian vermicelli came with both crystal noodles (clear noodles) and vermicelli which for $6.75 is a big, heaping bowl of satisfaction. It comes with mushrooms, tofu, the usual vegetables, and even a vegetarian egg roll. It's finished with peanuts on top and drizzled with their "house" sauce (which, by guess, was a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, and maybe a little hoisin). It was a delicious combination of ingredients that a lack of protein was never an issue.
The baguette sandwich was just a simpler version of banh mi. Instead of plus the pickled carrots, daikon, and a pate, this one came with spicy chicken, just the cucumbers, fresh carrots (which on the menu said marinated), slices of jalapeno, and the usual cilantro. Although the baguette was a little too hard, scraping the roof of your mouth (that kind of hard), the fillings were actually a good merry mix of fresh, spicy, and flavor. The chicken just had enough amount of spices to still taste like chicken, until that little kick comes in towards the end.
But we must not forget the purpose of this visit. Let us see if this place lives up to its name. The beef combo came with rare steak, beef meatballs, and brisket. It's served in beef broth with vermicelli, green onions, and bean sprouts, jalapeno, and basil on the side for your mixing pleasure. The meat balls were flavorless, the brisket was hard (AKA tough), and the rare steak was huhum. The beef broth was not as resounding, meaning many of bullion in lesser time (at least that kind of taste). I was hoping for that thick flavor you get from hours and hours of boiling those lovely bones. A little bit of hoisin and chili sauce helped enhance the taste a little bit. It does send that wave of comfort when hot soup hits the back of your throat, followed up by a slightly spicy kick. Comfort food indeed.
Twice now that this examiner was saddened by pho, one when it was not tried and now when it was finally sipped and slurped (see: Blue Hen review). But soon we will find that perfect bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle (not literally). For now let us just be satisfied at the attempt of delivering a delicious bowl; whilst failed, it was still able to provide that sigh of comfort when that warm broth started traveling from the mouth to the stomach (and the rest of the menu were not that bad either). And that is good comfort food in any book.
Absolutely Phobulous is at 350 N La Cienega Blvd LA CA 90048. T: (310)360-3930. They accept major credit cards. Pick from the many interesting drinks (Vietnamese coffee to soda plum), although none are alcoholic.