I Love Pho
Casual RestaurantFood ★★★☆☆
Ambiance ☆☆☆☆☆Service ★★★☆☆Creativity ★★★☆☆Value ★★★☆☆
$15-25 meal for 2 plus drinks
I have eaten at I Love Pho about 6 times or so. It is a fairly cheap eat restaurant as are many Pho restaurants. You can get a small bowl, which by the way is huge for about $7-8 and most of the meat dishes are in the $10-12 range. The food is fairly consistent and the ambiance is a bit lacking. However, the sanitation is going down. This is very important to me due to food safety and being a food scientist. The restaurant had a health department score of 97 which is very respectable, but the front of the house needed some serious cleaning. We were seated in one of the booths by the front window and the sunlight was shining right onto the holders that had the chopsticks and soup spoons. The dust on this was quite thick. It was obvious that this has not been cleaned in years. The crack between the booth seat and its back was full of crumbs and pieces of paper. I thought that maybe a pig was sitting here before me, but I took a peek at the other booths and they were in the same condition. The parking lot in front had a fair amount of trash (most likely due to the massive road project out front), that could have been picked up to make the area more tidy. During all of my visits, I don't recall ever seeing the owners / managers / cooks come out of the kitchen to see or greet the diners. Obviously, they should be spending a little more time out front.
I Love Pho has never been a fancy restaurant. It has the basic bare table and very basic chair with a Vietnamese Condiment Sauce tray on each table. The walls and ceiling are a drab brownish tan with a few curtains blocking the bathroom entrances and the kitchen entrances. The curtains are worn and a few have large bleach stains. This is not the place to impress a date. It is located just south of Groometown Rd on W. Gate City Blvd. As of this writing, it is in the area of road construction on Gate City and is a bit confusing to get into.
The service is typically decent and tonight was no exception. This is not 5-star fine dining service but decent for this class and level of restaurant. The server did a decent job, but they have to see the mess out front and the server was busing the tables so they should be trained to do a better cleaning. Once again, what I saw did not happen overnight.
The Food at I Love Pho is typically fairly good. I have had the Pho here several times as well as tonight and it is always a very tasty broth with notes of five spice, roasted onion and lots of ginger and of course the great earthiness of a good beef broth. The broth is a little cloudy, but not too much. The broth at I Love Pho is very good and has good complex flavors.
Tonight we tried a few new dishes we have not had here.
First was the Shake Beef (Bo Luc Lac) or as it is more commonly known, Shaking Beef is a classic Vietnamese dish which gets its name from shaking the pan while you are cooking the beef. I love Pho's Shaking Beef was very good. The sauce is a complex sauce with garlic, soy sauce, black pepper and a touch of sherry to add a bit of sweetness. The onions and beef were lightly charred, which added a great touch of brown notes. The dish also had some tomatos and it was topped off with chopped scallions and a touch of cilantro.
Next, we had I Love Pho's Pork Ribs in House Sauce. This was labeled as a rice dish, but it was served in a hot pot with a side of rice. The pork ribs were cooked in a tasty sauce of a touch of soy, garlic, pepper and fish sauce. The sauce was not overpowering and it was well balanced and not overly salty. The presentation was really lacking. The ribs were screaming, please brown me! A few minutes under a broiler, open flame or some source of intense heat would have brought this dish up. As served, it looked like a pot of boiled ribs, which is a shame as they did taste good.
I Love Pho's food is consistently good, however, the lack of care of the front of the restaurant is a bit disappointing considering it would take about 2 hours to clean this up to presentable standards.