4415 Nelson Road, Lake Charles
Once in a while, I’ll find myself flying solo to hit up a quick spot to eat. Sometimes these little lunches or dessert treats are featured in my Extra Dash. And sometimes, in a case like this one, where I had every intention of having a simple lunch, before I finished I found myself feeling the need to come back for more.
My initial visit started out with a simple query after gossip surfaced about a great new restaurant serving pho that was aptly named Pho World. Or, some asked, was it actually an old restaurant that reopened after Hurricane Laura? There seemed to be a bit of confusion and I figured it was a great time to delve into the details.
As I approached the building, overhead there was a brand new colorful sign displaying the words Pho World. However, on the glass pane near the entrance, the words Pho Tien — the name of a Vietnamese restaurant known to have been housed in this location — was displayed. “Pho Tien” was also on the paper menus on the counter.
OK, so I was thinking, perhaps they’ve re-opened under another name? I mean, it happens.
Pho World is a counter service-style restaurant, where you peruse the menu at the counter and order your food there. The cashier will either hand you a numbered table tent or they’ll take note of where you seat yourself and deliver the food to your table.
Standing at the counter of Pho World, with a menu from Pho Tien, I decided it was in my best interest to try the pho. There were several choices, from pan fried pho with beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu, to the traditional noodle soup in a beef broth with the same proteins available.
Ten minutes after I placed my order, a gentleman left the kitchen and placed a large bowl of pho before me. As the steam rose from the wide bowl, I detected the first noticeable aroma. There was a hint of cinnamon and star anise, followed by a savory beefy scent.
The noodle soup was presented with sides of bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, fresh jalapeño slices and a lime wedge. These are your aromatics, your textures, your flavor enhancers.
I took an initial sip to decide what I wanted to add to the soup, if anything, to find my balance of flavor. I found myself using every bit of the ingredients on the plate. It’s not that the soup needed to be doctored in any fashion, but adding all of this enhanced every aspect of the pho. From the gentle crunch of the bean sprouts to the heat of the jalapeños to the zesty and tangy lime all the way down to the aroma of the cilantro, the flavor of the broth was elevated. With the thin slices of flank steak, the overall taste was great in terms of flavors.
Arriving for my subsequent visit, I found myself again leaning toward the pho, but instead chose variety, as that provides writing opportunities. This time, I ordered the vermicelli noodle bowl with grilled shrimp, along with an order of two spring rolls. Once again, in 10 minutes, my order was ready for me to take to my wife’s office, where we would be able to sample it.
Short drives seem to become much longer when the aroma of the food sitting in the passenger seat is unavoidable. You know you want to eat it right then and there, but you can’t, or shouldn’t.
Arriving at the office, I began to set up lunch with plates and utensils. When I opened the to-go container, I was impressed. Sitting atop a bed of rice-vermicelli noodles, salad greens, julienned carrots and sliced cucumber was an impressive amount of large grilled shrimp and bell peppers with fish sauce on the side. It was colorful and appealing, and I couldn’t wait to try it.
I’d also ordered two shrimp and pork spring rolls.
I couldn’t have asked for a better-tasting dish. The noodles were perfect al dente; the grilled bell pepper and shrimp had an amazing snap and flavor. I found myself using more fish sauce than I thought I would have needed. It was very mild and seemed to accompany the dish quite well.
The shrimp and pork spring rolls were a pleasant surprise. Wrapped in rice paper was a combination of bean sprouts, julienned carrots, noodles, shrimp and thinly sliced pork. Here’s what I love about this chilled appetizer: that thin-sliced pork is pan fried, with a touch of sear to it; it presents a bacon-esque flavor that goes well with the house-made peanut sauce.
Those questions I had? I needed to find out about the conflict between the signage above the store and what was going on inside. After I placed my order on my second visit, I asked one of the gentleman at the counter how the new name had come about. The young man stated that the original owners of Pho Tien had retired, leaving the space as an opportunity for new prospects. Enter Pho World. The new owners are transitioning the space with their brand and a similar menu, offering their style of cooking. One oddity, especially in today’s technological world, is that you won’t find Pho World online. Unfortunately, they don’t have an online presence. Any patron fortunate enough to find this spot is doing so from habit, luck, or word of mouth, and is glad to have found it. I hope the road leads you to experience what Pho World brings to Southwest Louisiana.