Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pho Lang Thang – A Very Pleasant Surprise in Findlay Market

      The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky region has an abundance of Indian and Thai restaurants, many of which are good values.  However, Vietnamese cuisine is beginning to surge.  Song Long in Roselawn is an iconic, moderately priced family owned independent restaurant while Cilantro in Clifton is almost what I’d imagine a noodle shop would be like in Saigon.  Last year, Pho Lang Thang opened on Elder Street beside Findlay Market and it shares traits of the other two, but with some twists.  

Pho Lang Thankg in the Middle of Findlay Market
      The over-riding metaphor is that Pho Lang Thang is both clean and playful.  It’s an open space, glass-fronted, and very contemporary, but smack in the middle of
the most historic commercial district in the region.  Bright yellow, orange, and celery green dominate the visual palette of the interior as well as the food.  The hanging ceiling sculpture is simple and charming.  It’s a well thought out room, though it’s neither studied nor fussy.

      Neil had read the menu ahead of time and already had some choices in mind.  I was just glad it was Friday night and wasn’t paying much attention.  Our server recommended a few choices, which matched Neil’s and we ordered them.  
Cha Gio
We shared the Cha Gio, two spring rolls that are stuffed with various meats, carrots, and glass noodles.  The crispness of the covering led me to think they might have just been prepared, though I know this isn’t possible.  

Banh Mi Thit Nuong
We also shared the Banh Mi Thit Nuong, which is a sandwich with meat marinated in lemongrass (we chose chicken) that is then grilled and served on a baguette (perhaps their bread is from Findlay Market as well, I’m not sure, but the baguette was both tender and with a glossy crust) with pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, garlic, and cilantro.  We added pâté, but turned down jalapeños.  Wow!  It was an excellent sandwich.  

Bun Thit Nuong
We also tried the Bun Thit Nuong, a large bowl of vermiceilli noodles, with the pickled daikon, carrots, lettuce bean sprouts, cucumber, fresh herbs, crushed peanuts, and our choice of grilled beef.  We dumped the nuoc mam choy sauce over it, which gave it a little more moisture (this wasn’t one of the soups).  It was a complexly flavored dish and easy to share and tempting to just finish off by one’s self.  This was another winner.  The lemongrass and cilantro lend both citrus and slightly bitter notes to the cuisine along with the sweet/sour aspect of the accompanying sauces.  We enjoyed the Vietnamese drip coffee with condensed milk.  Food, beverages, tax and tip came out to less than $30.

      The service is friendly, humble, and efficient.  The staff is diverse and obviously enjoys the work.  There’s both dine in and take out service, though the restaurant closes at 8 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.  Strongly consider dropping by for lunch and picking up some groceries at Findlay Market.  We’re hoping Pho Lang Thang takes off because it is delightful.

Pho Lang Thang on Urbanspoon

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