Picking up the final jar of sprinkles required for the edible craft project I would be making with Misty that evening gave me the perfect excuse to be on D Street at lunch time. It didn’t even take much arm-twisting to get Ron to agree to try Pho Vihn Long. Maybe he thought I would pick up the tab since it was my idea.
When you first enter the clean, small dining room, scents of spices and incense tease your nose, offereing hints of what’s to come.
The menu concentrates on noodle bowls and beverages. There are a few appetizers to choose from and I selected the egg rolls for $2.50. Ron chose a meal from the few offerings that weren’t noodle bowls – a pork dish with rice. Neither of us decided to sample a Vietnamese drink. I am certain they would taste better mixed with Rum. Since I didn’t have a tiny bottle of anything in my gigantic purse (not that I normally would anyway) I ordered a soda for $1.75.
We received three small eggrolls and a dish of orange sauce speckled with chili flakes. The eggrolls were delicious. I could have eaten them like potato chips. The outer shell was thinner than paper and very light and crispy. They tasted so good, and I was so hungry, that I ate mine without trying to determine the ingredients. Oops! The sauce was sweet and slightly spicy. A nice accompaniment.
I ordered a small noodle bowl with chicken for $6.95. After seeing the size of it, I can’t imagine how large the large size would be. Let alone how I could eat it all.
The bowl is filled with a slightly brown broth exuding a meaty undertone in the fragrance. I would be surprised if there is no meat or bones involved in the creation of this dish, and therefore I doubt this is a good vegetarian destination. The broth appears darker in the photograph than it did in person. Swimming around in the broth are white onions, cilantro, green onions, and very thinly sliced chicken. When I started fishing around with my chopsticks, I found a large heap of transparent rice noodles as well. Accompanying the noodle bowl is a tray of add-ins: a twig of Thai basil, a wedge of lime, a couple slices of jalapeno and a pile of bamboo shoots. I placed all the additions to my bowl except the bamboo shoots.
Then I began to try to eat my food. I knew from my pho research back in the fall that the art of eating this dish would involve both the spoon and the chopsticks. I lasted all of two bites with the chopsticks and gave up. My next strategy was to try to twirl the noodles in the Italian style but I wasn’t very successful with that method, either. So I just grabbed a hunk of noodles with my fork and slurped, as quietly as I could, and then bit off whatever was still hanging out of my mouth. Completely ungraceful, but hey, I was hungry.
Alternating a couple bites with the fork and few spoonfuls of the broth enabled me to make my way through the bowl. I am confessing this to you so you won’t feel like you look like an idiot when you try to eat your pho because you can’t look any worse than I did. I was hoping no other patrons were laughing at me under their breath. The folks in the large party to my left looked like chopstick experts. I know Daniel would have fared much better than I did.
The taste of the broth was subtle and pleasing. You can discern the flavor of the cilantro, the heat of the jalapeno, and the aroma of the Thai basil. The chicken was tender and likely not seasoned beyond what it received in its marriage to the broth.
I enjoyed it and it seemed to me to be a healthful meal.
Our server and cashier, who may have been the owner, was pleasant and tried to help us as best he could given our language barrier. When I was trying to determine how to eat my food, I was worried he would come over and make wild motions, a disapproving look on his face, attempting to make me stop butchering the dish. Thankfully, that did not occur. He did try to explain to us what the diamond-shaped item was on Ron’s plate. All we got from what he said was: “egg”.
We are fortunate to have a place like Pho Vihn Long in our area. I cannot comment as to the authenticity of the food since this is my first time experiencing Vietnamese cuisine. I have a Vietnamese friend, though, that’s been twice and said their pho was comparable to what she makes at home for herself.
Personally, I prefer bolder flavors – more spice, more heat. If someone suggested coming back to Pho Vihn Long, I would gladly eat here again. But I don’t think I’ll ever have the craving for a noodle bowl like I do an Indian curry. That’s just a matter of individual preference.
I do recommend you try Pho Vihn Long, if for nothing else than the experience of tasting a new culture. The menu seems limited to me, but I believe that is intentional and the style of this type of restaurant. Prices are reasonable, service was good. THREE FORKS.
I’m sorry, but everytime I think of Vietnam I think of Apocalypse Now. So immediately walking into this place I heard Ride Of The Valkries playing in my mind feeling like Robert Duval.
doo todo do dootodoo……
This is the second time I’ve had Vietnamese Cuisine, the first time was in the ‘Burg, I forget the name as it was several years ago, but I do remember it having a “Health Department Warning” sign on the door. It was good then, so I expected it to be even better now, because there was no such sign on the door of this place in South Charleston.
My boss was out of town so I tend to take extended lunches, so today allowed me to do so with Susan, plus she needed to pick up some ingredients for those “Cake Pops” (also known as time wasters). So she chose this place, and I’m game. I like different types of food so, sure why not?
We take a seat near the front at a table for two. Guess what… This table was level! Hard to believe isn’t it. Even though the tables and chairs were typical of the mom and pop diner variety, metal and wood finishes (I think, honestly I wasn’t paying that much attention, I was too busy reliving my Apocalypse Now moment), the place was clean and decently decorated IMHO.
The kind gentleman was quick to bring us a menu, but on it was not much variety. I bet six items on page one and thirty different varieties of drinks on page two. (I didn’t count, so these totals are not correct)
I chose broken rice with shredded pork skin and BBQ pork for $7.95 see the picture:
I don’t know if what I got was real pork skin, but if it was, well it was pretty darn good. The only other time I had Pork Skin it was deep fried served out of a bag from Mr. Bee’s and I was drinking beer. This was nowhere near like that.
Also a lot of rice, a salad, a little egg thingofamajig, and a bowl of sauce on the side. Not knowing what this sauce was or was for, I simply dumped it over my pork and rice and started mixing. The little man that I think was the owner or at least the manager on duty, came by to tell me something, but I didn’t understand… dootodoo doo to do… This broken english made me feel at home and that I was eating authentic. To be honest I think the biggest issue to my not understanding was that the gentlemen spoke in a low tone and I just couldn’t hear. This lack of hearing is probably due to too many late night Slayer Concerts.
I really liked my food. It tasted good, the pork was tender, the pork skins were very tasty kind of exactly like pork. Imagine that. The rice absorbed my sauce and it was “succulent”. (I don’t even know what that word means I’m just using it.)
For the $8 I was full. I liked it. Susan ordered an appetizer of Egg Rolls, I liked those too.
Now for the all important score.
What I didn’t like… Well I’m not a noodle person, and half this menu is comprised of noodle bowl recipes. If this is all Vietnam has to offer, it makes me wonder how/why we lost that war or more importantly why we even joined in one to begin with. (yes yes I know… POLITICIANS, but this is not a political site, it’s an eating site).
I like a lot of variety to choose from and as I said I don’t really like Ramen Noodle type dishes. So the other half of the menu about six items is all I would pick from. What I’m saying is I just don’t see myself coming here that often. But it’s not from bad service, bad food or anything like that… The food was quite good, the service excellent. Just not much to choose from.
THREE FORKS.Pho Vihn Long 601 D Street South Charleston, WV 25303 304-722-7333