Despite hailing from Vancouver, it is not lost upon me that there are not a whole lot of great bowls of Pho to be found in West LA. My first night here was not supposed to start with a Vietnamese meal. In fact, we were trying to hit up ROC and their supposedly great XLBs, but they closed early for July 4th. Hence, we decided to try Nong La Cafe next door. They were pretty busy and we were only able to snag a table outside, where the lighting was bad and nowhere for my bounce flash to bounce off of... Yes, woe-is-me... #firstworldproblems
With thicker than usual rice noodles (Northern version?), the Phở Đặc Biệt otherwise looked pretty typical. The noodle themselves were chewy while the meats were not as soft as we would've liked. As for the broth, it was quite sweet and had a particularly strong licorice hit from the abundance of star anise. Despite this, no huge complaints about the entire package as it was decent. I went for the Bún Bò Huế and it was mildly spicy with not much lemongrass essence. There was a lack of lai fun noodles where I was left a bit hungry at the end. On the other hand, the noodles were pleasing being slippery with a rebound texture. Sliced a bit thickly, the beef shank was rather chewy.
For the kiddies, they split the Lemongrass Chicken with Fried Egg on Rice. The 2 breast portions were relatively moist while mildly seasoned. I could get a slight sense of lemongrass, but it could've been more apparent. The rice was fluffy and soft while the fried egg was nicely runny. Personally, I would've liked to see dark meat here as it would've been more succulent. Since I was still hungry, I got a Bánh Mì as well. I found the bun to be overly dense albeit crusty. The pate was plentiful and smooth with far too many whole peppercorns. That in turn made it too peppery and a bit hard to eat. Although Nong La did the job in filling our bellies, we weren't sure if we actually liked the food. It wasn't bad per se, but hardly impressive either.
- Friendly service
- Vietnamese food where there isn't a whole lot of choice
- Something lacking with each dish
- Skimpy with the noodles