Pho Long opens second location on South Grand

Pho Long quietly opened its second location, on South Grand, last weekend to a crowd of hungry diners. The new Vietnamese restaurant is situated in the former Garden on Grand space, across from the historic Pelican Building, which is undergoing a significant renovation

As with the original location in University City, the menu features a long list of pho and a generous selection of vegan and vegetarian options: soups, spring rolls, smoothies, and more. The menu is artfully designed to guide diners through unfamiliar choices, with photos of  dishes and descriptions of ingredients.

On our first visit, we began with the classic fresh spring rolls and fried chicken dumplings. The former were served with perfectly cooked shrimp, pork, and vermicelli noodles, paired with a side of peanut hoisin dipping sauce. (Pho Long also offers three other spring roll variations: tofu, beef brisket, and chicken.) The deep-fried dumplings were filled with chicken, an interesting contrast to the classic spiced pork pot stickers.Expand

Pho Kho Dac Biet, a “soupless noodles” dish (pictured at right), with beef, rice noodles, fried crispy shrimp, and tasty egg rolls cut into bite-sized pieces, as well as fresh mint, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, fresh lime and fish sauce.

As the name implies, there are myriad pho options, including 11 varieties with beef and six with chicken. Two new  additions include the Pho Suon Rong (with a 1-pound beef short rib and a medley of herbs and aromatics) and the Pho Bo Ba Chi (with a thick slice of brisket, ideal for barbecue fans). The Pho Tai Chin (pictured at right)  included well-done, thinly sliced eye of round and well-done pieces of brisket. The deeply flavorful broth came with a dish of fresh salad ingredients, including sliced  jalapenos, mint, bean sprouts and more. (The portions were so huge, we left with a good amount to enjoy at home.)

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The co-owner (who goes by “Pho Long”) and chef Phuong Nguyen

A handful of rice dishes include Muc Xao Saté, featuring calamari sautéed with green onions and ginger in a special house sauce. (For now, the popular banh mi sandwiches aren’t on the menu; to date, the family hasn’t found bread that meets their standards.) In the future, chef Phuong Nguyen plans to add lunch and dinner specials, such as Bun Cha Hanoi, a dish of broth, cold noodles, meat, mint, fresh garlic, herbs, chili peppers, and lime juice. And expect to see savory Vietnamese crepes, a chef specialty.

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Five smoothies grace the menu, including three unusual choices: one made from sweetened ripe avocado, one featuring jackfruit, and one made with durian. (Asked about the spiky, pungent fruit, Nguyen says, “I love the taste of durian. But the smell? It’s terrible.”) By comparison, the mango and strawberry varieties seem tame; consider pairing two fruits— jackfruit and strawberry or perhaps durian and mango.

Even during a soft opening, the experienced restaurant team delivered beautiful service, great hospitality, and fine food. When Pho Long gets its liquor license, I’ll lift a glass to the addition along South Grand.

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