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It's a Pho Lang Thang

By Brian Cross · January 5th, 2011 · Lunchline
When the weather gets brisker come winter, traffic at Findlay Market starts to dwindle. But a new eatery in the former Paula’s location is still bustling. It’s Pho Lang Thang (112 W. Elder St., Over the Rhine, 513-376-9177), a small and hip Vietnamese Bistro opened by brothers Duy and Bao Nguyen with friend David Le.

Despite the tropical climate in Vietnam, Pho Lang Thang has some good options for any weather: hot Pho soup; zesty Banh Mi sandwiches; salads; spring rolls; noodles. The menu is small enough that it won’t make your head spin, but varied enough for many tastes. Yellow walls brighten up the space and a huge collage made of pictures of Vietnam adorns the back wall.

My girlfriend and I have stopped in a couple times recently to check it out. The first time, we were lucky to find an open table for two in the busy restaurant. We were trying to decide on an appetizer to start with, and our server let us know they were out of both of the fresh salad rolls which left only the Cha Gio, fried ground-pork spring rolls with mushrooms, carrots and glass noodles ($3 for two). They came out later in our meal, but they were worth the wait. They came straight from the fryer and were crunchy and full-flavored. They’re served with nuoc mam pha dipping sauce (think citrus-y fish sauce).

We still want to try the two fresh salad rolls on another visit. They’re cold, not fried, and include a vegan option and one with shrimp and pork.

We both ordered a bowl of Pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup with tender thin-sliced beef in a slightly tangy broth with rice noodles, onion, scallion and cilantro (small $5; regular $6.50; large $8). You can add a plate of garnishes that includes bean sprouts, jalapenos, basil, cilantro and lime. You can substitute the thin-sliced steak (called Tai) for different cuts of beef, chicken or a vegan version with its own options.

The Pho really hit the spot on a recent chilly day. The broth is great on its own, but I added a little lime and Sriracha hot sauce. The regular serving is enough for a meal and the numerous ingredients keep it interesting from start to finish.

If you’re going to push your luck with the hot sauce, I’d recommend getting a can of Yeo’s Soy Bean Milk ($1.50) to drink. It’s tasty sweetened soy milk that’s cooling and refreshing. You can also get good Vietnamese limeade ($2) and Vietnamese coffee with or without sweetened condensed milk, hot or iced ($2-$3).

On another visit I ordered a Banh Mi sandwich for take-out ($6). Served on a lighter version of a French baguette, they are available with your choice of beef, chicken, pork, cold-cuts or tofu. I chose the lemongrass-marinated beef to go on my sandwich of pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, cilantro and garlicky mayonnaise. The meat was tender and all the ingredients were flavorful. The lighter bread is less dense than traditional French bread, so it’s not overly chewy.

We didn’t get a chance to try their delicious sounding salads and rice vermicelli noodles, but the good prices and great food and atmosphere will definitely have us coming back often.

CONTACT BRIAN CROSS: dining@citybeat.com



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