Review: Pho Saigon

I was going to write about Jean-Robert’s Table today, but he’s just going to have to wait.  Sorry, JR, but everyone knows about your restaurant.  I’m not sure so many folks know about this little gem south of the river.

I’ll be honest: I don’t go to Florence very often.  My company has an office in that neck of the woods, and I often go down there to train folks or do a few other things.  Today was one of those days.  After I finished, I needed lunch, but I also needed a relatively healthy lunch.  Terry and I have both been eating very thoughtfully and healthfully during the week (along with a pretty rigorous exercise program), and since I’ve been so diligent, I didn’t want to spoil my good streak by eating something unhealthy, which is easy to do.  I was looking for someplace where I could get salad, but as I got lost in the maze that is Florence (what’s up with all of the construction? And streets that don’t go where you think they would?) I stumbled upon Pho Saigon.

I love pho, but it’s a little difficult to find here in Cincinnati.  Song Long in Roselawn is on my “to-try” list, but I just don’t end up in Roselawn very often.  Cilantro is a nice option as well, but a little less traditional.  I’m waiting patiently for Pho Lang Sang to open up at Findlay Market, but until it’s open, it’s not an official option.  With the addition of Pho Saigon, we’re getting some much-needed Vietnamese cuisine expansion here in the tri-state.

I ordered two things: first, spring rolls, made with shrimp, mint, rice noodles and thin slices of giò lụa, which is a “sausage” made of pork and fish sauce.  It was wrapped in rice paper, and served with a satay sauce on the side.  I love Vietnamese food because it’s so aromatic.  Sure, most food smells good, but so often you can say, “Hey, that’s cilantro… and rendered chicken fat!” or “Mmm, grilled beef, and is that a hint of basil?”  Here, these herbs are front and center.  The mint, in combination with the cold shrimp and noodles, was really refreshing and different.  I loved the sauce as well.

Pho Saigon PhoFor an entree, I ordered Saigon-style pho, which in addition to beef includes the aforementioned giò lụa.  It is served in a large bowl with traditional pho condiments on the side: hoisin, fish sauce and Sriracha sauce at the table, and a plate of bean sprouts, fresh basil, fresh cilantro and slices of pepper presented with the bowl of soup.

In a word? Amazing.  The broth was rich and aromatic (there’s that word again), and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out just exactly what was seasoning the broth.  I definitely tasted anise and coriander, and it’s common for pho to include coriander, fennel, and cloves as well.  That’s one heady broth.  The beef, which was still a bit pink when I got it, could have been trimmed of gristle a bit more, but the broth and “vietnamese sausage” were so good that I didn’t care.  I ended up taking a good portion of it home and sipping on the broth for the rest of the day.

For me, this is absolutely worth the drive to Florence, and if you live in Florence– lucky!  I’m looking forward to trying other pho dishes, and I’m really hoping they eventually get banh mi on the menu as well.  They had a picture of it in the window, but it didn’t actually appear on the menu.  As far as price– $12 for the pho, a soda, and the spring rolls, but I could have easily skipped the rolls and just gotten the pho for lunch and kept lunch around $7.

Pho Saigon on Urbanspoon

  • BeingPolly

    @winemedineme Oh, I’ve been meaning to get down there for ages. It sounds good.

  • BeingPolly

    @winemedineme Oh, I’ve been meaning to get down there for ages. It sounds good.

  • BeingPolly

    @winemedineme Oh, I’ve been meaning to get down there for ages. It sounds good.

    • http://twitoaster.com/country-us/winemedineme/ winemedineme

      @BeingPolly It’s fabulous. I was very pleasantly surprised both by a) finding it and b) the food within.

  • BeingPolly

    @winemedineme Oh, I’ve been meaning to get down there for ages. It sounds good.

  • Dan

    “Song Long in Roselawn is on my “to-try” list, but I just don’t end up in Roselawn very often.”

    Roselawn is too far but you’ll drive to Florence? Whaaaaaat? Song Long is consistantly one of the best restaurants we go to in Cincy period. And cheap as can be. We will take another couple and have a couple beers/wines with incredible food and the total bill will be under $75 for the whole table!

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      It’s not that it’s too far, the neighborhood just isn’t in my regular list of go-to neighborhoods. I only was in Florence because of work. :)

      • Marshall

        Roselawn isn’t on anyone’s “go-to” list, and that’s including the people who live there. But, seriously, saying you love food in this city and not going to Song Long at least once is a Fail.
        Have you at least gone to Uncle Yip’s for Sunday brunch?

        • Julie

          Hey, I never said I was perfect. :). Uncle Yip’s dim sum is great. I reviewed it a few months ago.

  • Jonni Lynch

    Finally…something else to eat in Florence other than the little Thai place. Since we live in Elsmere, you’d hope Florence would have a plethora of choices, other than chains, chains and more chains (and fast food). Thanks for this!

    • http://winemedinemecincinnati.com julie

      I was really dismayed by the number of chains. I guess I knew that Florence had a bunch of chains, but I was hoping for some hidden gems. Glad I found this place!

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  • Richard

    It is truly amazing how people can attack without first reading and comprehending what it is they are supposedly commenting on. Those of us who did read the article understood perfectly well at the outset you were in Florence (y’all) on business.

    We used to frequent Song Long a lot since we live just a minute or so away. But after much attitude by one of the younger male family members (who was always working when I would stop by for take out on the way home), and getting short changed on multiple carry out orders, we stopped shopping there. But one of the things I always cringed at when visiting Song Long was how filthy the public bathrooms were. If that was the cleanlieness standard in the public restroom, then what must the non-public kitchen look like?

    • http://clarkstreetblog.blogspot.com/ WestEnder

      then what must the non-public kitchen look like?

      Pretty much like you’d guess…

  • vudutu

    Suzie Wongs and Mr. Sushi are our current go to for healthy Asian food, went to Mr Sushi last night. Don’t hold your breath on Pho Lang Sang at Findlay Market, It seems to be moving at the same pace as the the laughable Mullanes resurrection.

  • Josh

    This looks delicious. It’s a shame I rarely get out to Florence. :(

  • http://flourpowerz.blogspot.com becky

    This may force me to go to Florence. I’ve been avoiding it since I defected back to Ohio 3 years ago.

  • susan

    Have you tried Mekong Thai at Kenwood? I had the pho there last week and I thought it was absolutely delicious. Now, this was my first experience with pho, but I think it is worth the trip!

  • http://6monthbeerbody.wordpress.com @jrodwhalen

    I live about a mile and a half from here and my fiancée and I love the Pho. Definitely a great addition to the healthy eating options in Florence.