Reviews with food porn. And money shots.

Cincinnati Bites
Gordo Burger from Gordo's Pub and Grill

Posted Monday, March 14, 2011

It took three attempts over a span of three months to finally try Pho Lang Thang, the new and quickly blogger-revered Vietnamese restaurant at Findlay Market. Our failed visits were due to either an exorbitant wait or their completely running out of key menu items.

Pho Lang Thang boasts a diminutive menu made up of classic, authentic Vietnamese appetizers, soups, sandwiches and noodle dishes. It's as short and sweet as it is intimidating, with all the names marked with an abundance of foreign, squiggly accent marks we'd heretofore never seen. It would be nice if the menu items were numbered and accompanied with a phonetic spelling, so we ignorant folk don't have to struggle and squirm so much over the pronunciations.

I was fortunate in that I'd already come armed with some background knowledge of one of Pho Lang Thang's signature sandwiches, the Banh Mi. I'd first heard about it from Polly Campbell, when she reminded readers about a little downtown library hole-in-the-wall called Le's Cafe. Both the restaurant and the sandwich were new to me, and when I tried both, I was quite impressed.

Banh Mi sandwiches are a prime example of what melding cultures do to food. Its influences come from both Asia and Europe, in large part due to French colonization of Indochina, which really hit its stride more than 150 years ago under Napoleon III. Traditional cold-cut Banh Mi are served on a crusty French Baguette loaded with roast pork, liver pate or headcheese, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, hot peppers and shavings of daikon radish.

We tentatively stepped into Pho Lang Thang's front door, a flurry of staff zooming about at warp speed, all trying to keep up with the never-ending rush of people. An employee eventually acknowledged us and approached with paper and clipboard in hand. He wrote down our name and would have taken our cell phone number, had we brought one. The wait would be about twenty minutes, which gave us an opportunity to explore the rest of Findlay Market.

After we'd returned and had been seated, we tried to order two of their three starters, but they were out of them. Since they first opened, Pho Lang Thang has had an ongoing issue keeping food in stock; I wish they'd address the problem through more strategic and thoughtful inventory management. By default, we opted for the one remaining available appetizer, the Cha Gio: two spring rolls filled with pork, mushrooms, carrots and glass noodles, served with a neon-yellow, sweet-and sour fish sauce.

My girlfriend and I split an order of the Banh Mi Thit Nuong, a variation of the Banh Mi that comes with lemongrass-marinated beef instead of the more traditional cold cuts. For drinks we ordered the Ca Phe Sua (I'll spare you the accent marks), a Vietnamese hot coffee served with condensed milk; and the Da Chanh, a Vietnamese limeade.

Ca Phe Sua Vietnamese Coffee

The Vietnamese coffee arrived first, dripping from a strange apparatus resting atop a marginally filled cup of condensed milk. This made for an interesting conversation piece, but by the time all the coffee had dripped into the cup, we were left with the quandary of what to do with the apparatus once we'd removed it. We ended up resting the messy gadget on the bare table, since no saucer had been supplied with the coffee. My Da Chanh tasted much like any other limeade, very similar to a lemon shake-up one would find at a street fair.

Our Cha Gio appetizer arrived soon thereafter, two tightly-wrapped, deep fried rolls with the vibrantly yellow dipping sauce. The minced pork was reminiscent of chicken to me, the meaty flavor paring well with the sweetness of the fish sauce. The oil they were fried in tasted fresh, making them seem lighter than they were.

Cha Gio spring rolls
Banh Mi Thit Nuong

Like the appetizer, our Banh Mi sandwich was presented artfully on the plate, diagonally-sliced Baguette halves nestled together to expose the layers of meat and vegetables. The bread had a pleasing crunchy outer layer, which protected the doughy inside that had absorbed some of the marinated meat juices. The tender meat had good flavor, but the sandwich lacked the jalapeno kick I've come to expect from a Banh Mi.

Pho Lang Thang's food is good, but at this point I'm fairly loyal to Le's Cafe for my Banh Mi fix. Maybe it's the fact that, like a first kiss, my experience there will always be my favorite. It won't matter how much better subsequent sandwiches are: nothing will come close to that, "Holy shit, I'm eating a Banh Mi!" feeling one gets only once in life.

Pho Lang Thang on Urbanspoon
Pho Lang Thang

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars

Other Recent Reviews

  1. Seitan Worship: Losantivill3
    -posted Wednesday, March 7, 2018
  2. Chinese Impressions: Kung Food Chu's AmerAsia
    -posted Monday, February 26, 2018
  3. Bow to the Hoagie: Italianette Pizza
    -posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018
  4. Dinner Impressions: Envision Cinemas Bar & Grill
    -posted Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  5. A Taste of Hawaii: Poke Hut
    -posted Thursday, January 4, 2018
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From TJ Jackson about Bourbon Smokehouse:
    Best pulled pork in town: webbs bbq in Newport, open ONLY on Fridays. and cheap.
    posted: Thu., Feb 1st, 2018 @ 12:39 PM
  • From Natasia Malaihollo about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thank you for the review and background on the restaurant history! I was a huge fan of huit and super disappointed when they “closed.” Was wondering what’s going on with this musical chairs of a restaurant strategy so thank you for clarifying!
    posted: Fri., Jan 26th, 2018 @ 6:50 PM
  • From Jeff about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for the thorough review! It honestly does seem like a new restaurant is opening every other day..but the thing about the wait staff..they might be getting paid a higher hourly rate because they are only open for lunch. I’ve worked at a restaurant where I was paid $10 an hour but the owner kept the tips, it sucked but sort of made sense for the lunch shift.
    posted: Fri., Dec 22nd, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
  • From heather about Wild Eggs:
    we liked it too - things are fresh and made from scratch and high quality - good experiences all around
    posted: Wed., Dec 20th, 2017 @ 10:55 AM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design