What Gumbo is to Southern cuisine, Pho is to Vietnamese. Pronounced (Fuh) in Vietnamese, I tried to discover the origins of the word and to find out what it means. The best I could come up with was ‘noodle’ and the sense that its origins are not concrete. So, I wondered about the meaning of the restaurant name when I walked inside.
Sitting on the corner of Niagara Street and Rhode Island is a largely nondescript, slightly stodgy building with an outdoor patio. The sign – Pho Lantern Restaurant – touted Vietnamese, Thai and Seafood. I like all three, so I thought I’d explore this West Side gem in the rough.
Inside, the gem in the rough was no longer rough cut. A beautiful aquatic décor interior belied the brown paper bag exterior. Sailing ships, mermaids and salt water aquariums accent the room that was appointed with marble topped tables and padded high back chairs. The sea anemone in the salt water tanks were beautiful to watch – like a fireplace on a cold and rainy day. Lanterns hang from the ceiling to provide soft light above each table. The menus are professionally bound and look elegant as well.
I was reminded by a friend that I need to eat more veggies, so I took her advice to heart and selected accordingly. To start off I chose a Stir-Fried Egg Noodle dish with Tofu and Vegetables ($10). My server very kindly asked if I was a Vegetarian and would I prefer a vegetable broth instead of the beef broth that accompanies the dish. I declined, but it was great that they had that as an option if I ever wanted it.
I also ordered the Tofu and Vegetable Fried Rice dish (also $10). I had my friend’s words in my head and wanted to follow suit with more veggies and vegetable protein. I also ordered one of my favorite pick me-ups, a glass of Thai Iced Tea ($3.00). It wasn’t long before my tea arrived, and I got to swirl the cream and coconut milk down into the red-colored tea making a beautiful, creamy and orange drink. The taste is sweet and creamy and I really enjoy its refreshing qualities.
My noodle dish arrived, and it presented well. The broth had a light honey taste to it and it made the dish a good choice for me. The broccoli was steamed and then stir-fried with the rest of the vegetables that came out both crispy and tender. The tofu – unfortunately – was a bit rubbery. I really had to work at chewing it. There were one or two pieces that were correctly done but the majority were chewy. I still had another tofu dish coming and had hopes for that one. The Fried Rice with Tofu and Vegetables was also nicely presented with a sprinkling of crispy noodle flakes over the top (a nice touch) and the rice with egg and vegetables was cooked well. I enjoyed the dish but encountered the same consistency with the tofu – rubbery. Despite that the flavors were on point for both dishes and I did enjoy them.
Service was excellent. They were attentive and polite and offered assistance with menu selection. Checkout is tableside with their POS system and portable printer – fast and efficient.
Pho Lantern has a beautiful interior with a full menu that also features, happy hour specials and daily specials and take out service. Bicycle racks outside and patio dining in the warmer months.
Come check out what’s Pho dinner.
Ambiance: Nicely appointed, modern interior with touches of elegance. Menu: Daily and weekly specials, good selection to choose from, fresh and tasty. Service: Friendly, fast and efficient, helpful.
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