There is no shortage of amazing Vietnamese restaurants in southern California- Pho 54 is no exception. We stumbled on this place on Saturday afternoon, a bright, sunny drive through Westminster that ended with bellies full of vietnamese noodle soup. And an insatiable craving for a glass of Pinot Bianco…
Pho 54 looks like most Pho restaurants… non-descript from the outside and brightly lit, plasticky and vinyl-covered on the inside. What these places lack in ambiance they certainly make up for with lots of fast, cheap deliciousness. Every Pho place has its own signature broth, to which they add various meats, vegetables and rice noodles.
I am no expert in Vietnamese cuisine, but I have yet to find a bowl of Pho I didn’t like.
Emil ordered the beef tendon Pho, while I stuck with the Vietnamese meatball version. I like the spongy texture of the meatballs next to those slick, soupy noodles. Pho is also wonderful because you can spice it up the way you like it. Every Pho place has a condiment stand like this one, containing various hot sauces, plum sauce, vinegars, chili oils etc…
Plus, each order of Pho is accompanied by a plate of cold, crispy bean sprouts, Thai basil, thick, juicy lime wedges and sliced jalapenos. Hallelujah.
When your large bowl of steaming Pho arrives, the bean sprouts wilt in the hot broth while the Thai basil perfumes everything with its minty-fresh licorice aroma. I go heavy on the lime juice as well- and as much hot sauce as I can stand without breaking out into a full sweat.
The exotic flavors, fresh vibrant colors and hot comforting broth are all lovely, but could be absolutely elevated with a glass of something cold, white and screamingly acidic. I like the stoney-crisp edges of an Alto Adige white with these flavors- something to balance the acdidity in the food, and highlight the spices without overwhelming them. Terlano’s Muller Thurgau would be an excellent option, as would Abbazia di Novacella’s Veltliner Praepositus. I tasted the Praepositus last week in Las vegas and can attest to its mouth-watering stone fruit, perfectly-pitched acidity and lovely full-bodied, glycerine mouthfeel. This is what we were craving. However, our choice from all available options was a salted lemon soda… not a bad second runner-up.