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Friday, Oct. 12, 2012

Lovers of Pho Will Embrace Pho Lovers

Vietnamese specialty continues to gain steam

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 If Vietnam designated a national dish, it would have to be the steaming bowl of broth and noodles called pho. Pho is a staple of street-food vendors in Vietnam, and many restaurants in the nation’s larger cities are devoted to this dish. The popularity of pho is also being seen in the Milwaukee area, with small eateries like Pho 27, Pho 43 and Pho Hai Tuyet. A newcomer to the field is Pho Lovers, located in a former Rocky Rococo on the far Northwest Side of Milwaukee.

Pho is the centerpiece of the menu, but appetizers and rice and noodle dishes are also available. One appetizer that immediately catches the eye is chao tom ($8.95), or shrimp on sugar cane. The two pieces of sugar cane, which act like Popsicle sticks, are covered with shrimp paste. A bit of pork fat is used as a binder. The result is delicious, with the sugar cane adding a hint of sweetness.

Those with light appetites might enjoy one of the three banh mi sandwiches ($3.75-$3.95). Your choice of meat is served with marinated vegetables, a dab of mayo and a sprig of cilantro on a small baguette. Grilled pork is a sound choice. The other options are ham and shredded chicken.

The most common Vietnamese phos are made with beef broth and pieces of meat. Pho Lovers offers a dozen beef phos on the menu, as well as vegetarian, chicken, shrimp and seafood phos.

The beef phos are variants of the beef parts used. Options include brisket, thin slices of steak, tendon, tripe and meatballs. Be as adventurous as you like.

Beef phos are sold in two sizes ($7.95-$8.95), and both are big. Every pho comes with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, basil and cilantro to be added to the broth. Multiple sauces are available at every table—sriracha, hoisin and fish sauce, among them. Use them to tweak the flavor.

The noodle and rice dishes are also worth a try. Com tom bo xao xa ot ($10.50) is steamed rice topped with shrimp and slices of beef as thin as those in the pho. It is cooked with lemongrass, but ginger is the dominant flavor, making this reminiscent of a Chinese dish. Mi xao gion do bien ($12.50) is a dish featuring crisp fried noodles formed into the shape of a shallow bowl. The bowl is filled with assorted seafood and vegetables. The seafood includes shrimp, scallops, surimi, fish balls and pieces of squid that are carefully cross-scored to tenderize them even more. Everything is topped with thin slices of crispy shallot. This dish is tame and mild, but enjoyable.

The drink menu will include beer in the future, but for now you will find coffee, tea drinks, coconut juice and lemonade.

One item I look forward to trying is the classic Vietnamese starter of banh xeo, a crepe that is folded and filled with shrimp. Judging from the shrimp with sugar cane, the banh xeo has to be good.

Pho Lovers

5430 N. Lovers Lane Road

(414) 466-6880

$-$$

Handicap Accessible

Pho-lovers.com

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