Monday, December 16, 2019

Pho Lovers - Westminster

If I was blindfolded, taken to Pho Lovers and asked to guess where I was, I’d be able to tell just by the smell that I’m in a pho restaurant. Like any of the hundreds of other pho specialist in Little Saigon, Pho Lovers smells distinctly of the dish it serves. The room is humid with the unmistakable musk of boiled beef, anise, herbs, and lime.

It’s almost a sour scent, with a hint of mildewed mops mixed in, along with perspiration from the labor it took to make the soup. Spend any amount of time in the place and these smells cling to your clothing like steel shavings to a magnet.

To those unaccustomed, it might even be unpleasant. For me, this eau de pho is intoxicating, especially when it’s cold outside and all want is to stick my face over a steaming bowl of noodle soup.

Pho Lovers is not an old school pho joint. Compared to the others in the enclave, it’s a relatively new entrant. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at it. The servers are gruff, the menu grimy, and the prices reasonable.

A small bowl of will cost about $8. A large one, not much more. The noodles are silken, the green onions cut thick. And the broth—a scalding hot elixir that proves there is, in fact, a cure for the common cold—is rich and lip-smacking, the product of hours of simmering.

The beefy liquid starts out a light brown, but then gets murkier the more you stir, especially if you get the “tai”. These thin-shaved pieces of raw filet mignon shed protein as they cook in the soup. The other beef cuts aren’t as good or as tender as the “tai”, but whatever you get, the kitchen piles on the meat. You get a whole steak’s worth in every bowl.

Also generously portioned is the plate of herbs served on the side. And in this pile, there’s more than just the usual basil and bean sprouts. There’s also sawleaf, and something resembling sprouts that I could not identify as easily as the bowl of pho itself, which is a meatier, heartier, funkier bowl of pho than any I’ve eaten from restaurants that don’t smell half as pungent.

Pho Lovers
9325 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683


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