That first chill late last month put me in search of hot soup, and it doesn't get any better than at Pho Vi.
Pho is Vietnamese soup — noodles, meat and vegetables that float in aromatic broth. It's the specialty of the house at Pho Vi, which owner Danny Nguyen named after his 5-year-old daughter, Vi. It's a family-run operation with Nguyens both serving and cooking.
The 50-seat restaurant itself is pretty bare bones: soft yellow walls, tile floors and simple wooden tables and chairs. There's no beer or wine, but they serve very good traditional ca phe sua da, iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk ($3.95). I also had a glass of lime juice soda ($3.95), a glass of ice with lime syrup served alongside seltzer water.
Half of the menu is devoted to pho, the other half to rolls, banh mi sandwiches, rice dishes and rice vermicelli bowls.
Crispy fried Vietnamese egg rolls ($5.95) are filled with minced shrimp, pork, glass noodles, shallots, carrot and taro and served with house chili garlic sauce. There are also a rice paper-wrapped rolls ($5.95) filled with steamed pork and shrimp, rice vermicelli and lettuce. These come with peanut sauce. Banh mi ($4.95-$6.95) are served on fresh baguettes and come with grilled chicken, grilled pork, Vietnamese ham or a combination of meats.
Soup is the real star at Pho Vi. It's priced between $7.95 and $10.95 and really is a meal in itself. Vegans will be delighted to know they make a meat-free version ($9.95). Yes, the broth is vegan.
Pho, in my mind, is all about the flavor of the broth. Here, it's a deeply flavored beef broth that you can order with any combination of beef including round steak, brisket, meatballs and flank steak. There's also a chicken-based soup. Most of soups are offered with traditional banh pho or rectangular noodles. A specialty of the house is bun bo hue, wonderful lemon grass beef broth with round rice noodles, beef shank, steamed pork and pork patties. All pho comes with a side of fresh bean sprouts, basil, lime and jalapeno pepper to add as you wish.
Check out the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine in caramel or coffee-flavored flan ($3.95). Or finish with one of the bean and tapioca-thickened puddings made with coconut milk ($4.95).
If you've never had pho, head to downtown Hollywood.
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Pho Vi Vietnamese Cuisine
1933 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Hours: lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday
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