Le Pho Downtown Las Vegas Raises the Bowl on Pho

I eat a lot of Pho. While some people do fast-food when they are in a hurry, I tend to find myself a local Pho place, sit down and enjoy what could be considered Vietnamese fast food.  For those who aren’t in the know about the Pho, Pho is a Vietnamese street food whose actual origins aren’t that well known, even in Vietnam. Regardless, it’s considered by many to be almost the national food of Vietnam and for decades Vietnamese emigrants from all over the world set up Pho shops. More recently though it has become very popular amongst non-Vietnamese foodies, hipsters and club goers.

In Las Vegas, Pho is often synonymous with late night dinners by industry locals before work. Places like Pho Kim Long, with its infamous pornographic name, on Spring Mountain often are packed with people attempting to have a quick bite before work, or the next day after a serious hangover.

Still, almost all the places, as nice as they can get, are pretty much the same. While there are some that are better, it’s still pretty much a street food and the quality of meat and other ingredients is generally not that good. When eating Pho it’s sort of sometimes better not to know what exactly is in it, especially if you aren’t familiar with the word “tripe.”

Chef Khai Vu @ DistrictOne

Chef Khai Vu @ DistrictOne

Enter Le Pho, the culinary brainchild of Chef Dan Coughlin and Chef Khai Vu. Both Chefs have relatively successful well-known local restaurants, so it was expected the food would be better than the average Pho place.

However, I had no idea how much better it would be.

I didn’t want to give a full review of the place, partially because there will be journalists and reviewer who will do a much better job that I could ever.

I wanted to just focus on the Pho, and the Pho in particular that I had: the Oxtail Pho.

As soon as it arrived at the table, I knew I was in for a treat. The smell was an intense deep meaty smell, with just enough steam rising from the broth to let me be able to inhale and immediately enjoy. The first taste of the broth was even better, with the unique deep flavor I’ve never had before with Pho. I recognized the flavors but they were more intense, more of them, fresher, better.

It seemed to me that there had to be some secret to the taste. Curious that it might be MSG or some sort of flavor enhancer to give it that deep umami taste, I called the restaurant and spoke to the manager “Cookie.” While she didn’t seem to be an expert in Pho herself, and admits she learned a lot from the Chef, she was able to explain to me exactly what their process is in making the Pho.

According to her, they don’t use MSG in their Pho because they wanted to make a better product, where customers could taste more of the ingredients. Instead of “cheating” as she called it, with MSG, they take a more expensive route that requires them to put all the different meats in a pot, and simmer it slowly for over 6 hours with ginger, onions, salt and pepper. Even the bones are put into the soup so that the marrow essence will transfer its flavor.

Epicurean Blogger John Curtas on a date at Le Pho

Epicurean Blogger John Curtas on a date at Le Pho

While that may not seem like a huge step, a lot of restaurants do opt to use MSG. A quick call around town to the Pho restaurants ended up with at least half a dozen admitting they use MSG, don’t label that there is MSG in their products, and in a few cases, have no idea what they put in their Pho. While I can’t guarantee that Le Pho is that much better than other places because they don’t use MSG, I can tell you that Le Pho is indeed, that much better – and that’s all you need to know.

That’s because it’s Phobulous…

Ok, that sounded a lot better in my head.

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