The Heartiest Pho This Side of the 405
Lots of love and no MSG go into this MVP specialty
By Kellie Chudzinski
Inside Westchester’s Most Valuable Playa diners will find an open 15-seat stone bar, plenty of tables and a room filled with natural light. Tucked on a menu varied with Taiwanese-inspired shareable dishes are two different pho soups.
On the surface, pho – pronounced fuh not foh – is a simple Vietnamese soup of rice noodles and broth paired with tender meat and herbs. Though the people of Vietnam have likely been eating something similar to pho for centuries, the modern form of this soup became popular at the turn of the 20th century. At sunup and sundown vendors would hang a hot pot of stock on a bamboo pole over their shoulders, with fixings for the soup hanging from the other end of the pole. Though pho is considered a street food staple, the soup being served up at Westchester’s MVP is anything but ordinary, combining hours of work, decades of experience and quality ingredients.
Pho ‘Da Lat’ Style, named in honor of creator Chef Minh’s upbringing in Southern Vietnam’s Dalat, pairs thin cut, tender and exquisite rib-eye with a hefty portion of rice noodles, topped with bean sprouts, spring onions, cilantro, and sliced red peppers. Though the heart of this dish lays in the “labor of love” broth.
Owner Eric Ong pushed Minh, who has been in kitchens for over 40 years, to depart from using MSG, the flavor enhancer typically used in traditional pho, and to avoid shortcuts, he said, restaurants often fall back on.
“I chose to challenge him, let’s make our broth a lot different,” Ong said.
The two who have worked together for eight years, landed on using veal bone broth, which is simmered for 18 hours to create a thick and rich stock for their soup. “No one is doing that at the moment,” Ong added.
Perfect for those who don’t favor a spicy meal, the mild dish is versatile, taking on the flavor of spices or sauces added to it, as it is paired with sides of spicy sriracha and a sweet tanged hoisin sauce.
The restaurant also added Chicken Pho, with poached organic chicken, rice noodles, crushed garlic, cilantro and spring onions in a chicken bone broth.
In recent years, along with the rise of ramen restaurants, pho has also gained popularity. The single dish provides loads of flavor and completely satisfies hunger and an urge for comfort.
Ong attributed the current popularity of pho to being a perfect combination of light and heart, while his collaborator Minh called it a “healthy balance” filled with flavor.
“Both [ramen and pho] are equally hardy, rich and delicious,” Ong said. “I think pho is just more of a lighter version of comfort.”
Ong also owns Humble Potato, the restaurant that used to occupy the MVP space and he wants the community to know it’s the same team still serving up Asian fusion but with a different flare. The team behind MVP continues to offer mouthwatering dishes and a welcoming hangout for the small community and visitors.
While the rare cool winter days of Los Angeles may have diners dropping their iced coffees and opting for a portion of warm comfort food, the traditional Asian dish is perfect regardless of the weather.
Ong says that the soups are so popular that they may become a permanent part of the menu. Either way, you don’t want to miss out on this ‘heart’-y broth.
Outdoor seating is now available at MVP (8321 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester). Visit the mvpla.com to learn more or order online. Follow @themvpla on Instagram for updates.