Minh and I have driven by iPho Restaurant a bajillion times (since it’s right by where we live), but have never been inside. We had ordered food from the place that was here before (Oh Me Ly!), but hadn’t stepped in since this place opened. Saturday night was the time to try.
First of all, I would NOT recommend this place to ANYONE. I’m having a hard time deciding where to start the review, so I’ll start with some words off their menu:
Applying family culinary secrets and experiencing satisfying hosts of indigenous and foreign customers of every nationality in over three generations of service develop the exceptional cuisine of iPho Restaurant. French, Vietnamese, and American flavors with exceptionally fine quality of ingredients are evident in our very own “Vietnamese-American” style cooking. Hue, Saigon, and Hanoi of Vietnam include lush, bountiful, bustling culture that reflects the cuisine of its own home. The demands for high energy, non-filling , non-fattening nourishment sustain them throughout a tropical workday resulting in the evolution of many diverse culinary dishes of unique distinction and is not find great appeal and high favor in Western diets. We hope you enjoy eating here and thank you for choosing iPho Restaurant for your dining experience.
Ignoring grammar and general comprehensibility, I still don’t understand the description of this place. It’s supposed to be Vietnamese-American-French Fusion. That’s as much as I could gather from that. The rest of the description is just gibberish. Who wants to read that the food you’re about to eat is “non-filling”? Isn’t that a good indication to stop eating?
Below the above [ridiculous] description on the menu is a little warning. I’ve re-typed it as well:
Actual food times may vary. Certain dishes may take less preparation time than others. Please let your server know if time is of a constraint to you, and he or shee will help find the best possible dish in the time that you have allotted. We try to provide the best accomodations that we can. Please be advised that Vietnamese cuisine features an abundant variety of spices and seasonings that may not be well suited to your dietary appetite. Please alerty your waiter to any food allergies that you may have with regards to certain products such as peanuts, spices, dairy, MSG, and etc.
This is basically telling you that they can take as long as they [damn well] please trying to get your food out to you (don’t worry though, it didn’t take forever for the food, just the check… more on that later). It also says that they use MSG in their food! Last time I checked, MSG is not a “key” ingredient in ANY traditional Vietnamese food (or any “traditional” food) that I can think of. Maybe your great grandma left you recipes that include MSG??
Secondly… You would think walking into a place with “pho” in the name and a hot bowl of soup as the logo would serve pho or soup. I think that’s a fair assumption. Boy was I wrong!! Apparently (I found out later when looking on Yelp), this place only serves pho (and a very small selection of it) during lunch hours. During dinner, they serve French-Vietnamese “Fusion”. Their menu consists of… Vietnamese appetizers (eggrolls, spring rolls, calamari, etc etc..), French appetizers (escargot… I guess that’s French), Italian “style” pastas (huh???), and standard American “fine dining” entrees (steak, lamp, Chilean sea bass… what??). Where’s the fusion? Just because you have a hodge-podge of dishes from different areas of the world doesn’t mean you can call it fusion!!!!
Anyway, I was slightly disappointed (OK REALLY disappointed) with NO PHO on the menu. That’s the WHOLE REASON we decided to eat here in the first place. We ended up ordering Banh Cuon Thit Nuong (BBQ pork wrapped in steamed rice noodle sheets.. that’s the best explanation I can give it) and iPho Spaghetti special.
The Banh Cuon Thit Nuong was good, but nothing special. You could get the same thing, just as good, at any Vietnamese Restaurant in Little Saigon that specializes in Hue/Central Vietnamese cuisine.
Why we ordered spaghetti?? Minh was curious what it would taste like.. and he was really drawn to the sautéed mushrooms that were supposed to be in the sauce. I was curious a little, too. It looked OK when it came out. The meatballs however, looked kinda… I don’t know… overdone?? The sauce had a very strong, sweet, strange flavor to it. Couldn’t quite figure out what it was, but it wasn’t good. It wasn’t horrible, but not good. What was really odd about the mushroom sauce was.. there were NO MUSHROOMS in it (perhaps not THAT odd for a pho restaurant that doesn’t serve any pho). The meatballs tasted like they were microwaved from a frozen bag from Costco.. correction.. I’ve had meatballs from the frozen section at Costco that were better than these. At least they didn’t charge us the extra $5 to share the plate.
A couple good things about this “new” place.. the service is good and the decor is nice. Although, I think it’s the same owners as the place before, just a new name and new decor (not confirmed though). I could say more about this place, but I think I’ve said enough. Bottom line.. I wouldn’t eat here again, and wouldn’t recommend it. As with so many restaurants that have opened and closed at this location.. I don’t think it’ll last.