[This Hole-in-the-Wall Life] Five-Napkin Pho at Pho Vie II

The waiters don’t even bother asking customers sitting at PHO VIE II what they want. Out comes a plate of basil leaves, cilantro twigs, jalapeño slivers, bean sprouts and lime wedges: the traditional garnishes for pho. The waiters know why you and dozens of others have visited—outside hangs a big banner promising “50% OFF PHO GA.” Half-off a massive bowl of chicken soup. A big meal for $2.50 in these desperate times. What the hell are you doing reading this review? Save me for later, and go now . . .

You’re back—wasn’t it delicious? Didn’t you like the steaming bowl, the light broth and the lean white strips of hen breast? Granted, some folks don’t like their chicken soups with bone-in meat, but that extra bit of cartilage and marrow lends a sweetness to Pho Vie II’s namesake you can’t find in other places. And not all of the chicken strips were completely clean—some had bumpy skin, others a bit of gristle. Hope you didn’t toss those nastier bits to the side—the flashes of fat were spectacular, candy-like in warm, sugary comfort. And I hope ustedes dunked each chicken slice into the smaller bowl of fish sauce—combining the sea with the barn might not be kosher, but it’s perfectly halal in the mouth.

Pho Vie II has a lengthy menu, but all are variations on three dishes—pho, bún (the great vermicelli-noodle soup I’m amazed health nuts haven’t yet appropriated like the burrito/wrap) and some rice dishes. Honestly, I didn’t bother looking at the rest of their menu, so alluring a bargain the chicken pho is (and I don’t know how long it’s going to last, so again, go now). I did notice the environment—large, airy, the perfect combo of Vietnamese dive and the newer efforts emphasizing ambience over cheap prices. The only disturbing aspect was the Gipsy Kings-esque music in the background, but the customers were paying more attention to their slurps than guitar strums.

And confidential to Pho Vie II’s waiters: I’m sorry about the snot-filled napkins I left on the table. I’ve been under the weather lately, and a Facebook amigo commented on my status by recommending you folks. Your amazing soup decongested me to the tune of five Kleenexes. I wanted to throw the crumpled-up tissues away so that none of you would have to handle my sickness, but there wasn’t a trashcan in sight, so I stuck them inside a copy of TheOrange County Register, right on Gordon Dillow’s latest love letter from Iraq. I hope you don’t mind—the waiters, of course, not Dillow.


Pho Vie II, 10120 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 539-5224.

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