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Jul 11, 2007 10:19 PM

Pho and banh mi in Montrose... no, not a hoax.

Imagine my surprise. I never eat in Montrose anymore, so I walk down Honolulu and see Asian bistro... fancy wine-and-cheeseria... pho shop... Zeke's Sm...wait, what? Back up a bit. Since when are there Vietnamese people in the Foothills?

There aren't. But there are Koreans... and Pho 21 is a Korean-owned pho shop.

It's not bad pho. A little too much MSG, not enough cilantro. Good broth, but the table salad was miserable -- good lime, OK hot peppers, but one measly tiny four-leafed sprig of basil, no cilantro or ngo gai, and limp, soggy sprouts. Noodles were appropriately cooked and the "knot" came apart easily enough. The tai (beef that goes in raw) was very good, the brisket was fatty enough. I don't eat tendons or tripe so can't comment.

The egg rolls -- horrible. Not cha gio/nem ran at all, these were the usual Chinese-American abominations. Two for $3. Not even filled up. With the tiniest possible leaf of lettuce for wrapping, no herbs, but excellent nuoc cham.

The bun looked tasty, though you're limited to beef, pork or chicken, and the lettuce is shredded like cole slaw.

Pho was $6.75 for a small bowl (which is plenty large enough for lunch, trust me). They advertise banh mi (with grilled beef, grilled pork or grilled chicken) for $3.50. I haven't tried them yet... but I guarantee they're the only banh mi for miles in any direction.

In short, on Bolsa or Brookhurst it would be closed in ten days flat, but for Montrose it's not bad at all, and, well, the next pho places I know of are in the SGV and in North Hollywood.

They appear, by the way, to be a sister restaurant to the restaurant of the same name in Buena Park, another Korean stronghold.

Pho 21
2230 Honolulu Ave, Montrose, CA 91020

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  1. I know the area you're talking about, and I wouldn't expect to get pho there either. I think Schreiner's Deli and Berolina Bakery are only a few blocks away. I might check Pho 21 out the next time I'm in that area. :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: katkoupai

      Berolina and Schreiner's are about 4 blocks away, down Ocean View.

    2. Well, on the same few blocks of Honolulu is Zen Asian Bistro, doing so so versions of chinese, thai and vietnamese dishes, and a sushi place, and Ra Crescenta and Ra Canrada are both quite close, so one can't be TOTALLY suprised by the asian restaurant in Montrose anymore. I concur the Pho is decent but not anything special.

      1. Thanks for the write-up. I was wondering about it. But I usually do the Berolina/Schreiner's when I am in Montrose. I remember the first time I saw it when driving by and almost crashed into the car in front of me since I had to crane my neck to make sure I was seeing correctly!

        1. Ended up trying Pho 21 (funny, the yellow pages have it listed as Pho 22, but the receipt has it as Pho 21. IIRC the to go menu says Pho 22 as well) in Montrose last night. First, of course, went into Schreiners and got some black forrest ham and cheese and some gummi candy, then walked next door to Berolina. Oddly enough, nothing looked good to my mom (!!??) so I told her after a day downtown at the NLRB I was STARVING and needed food. I remembered the pho place and mentioned it. She only wanted tea, so it was basically my choice.
          Entered a very nicely decorated and relaxing restaurant. Service was with a smile and very sweet. Ordered Pho Tai (large - $7.25) more pricey than my usual Pho 79 version, but I was in Montrose after all. Yes, Das, only 2 sprigs of Thai Basil but the sprouts were not boiled or limp - they were fresh and firm. Soup had green onions, noodles and meat (light meat for me) in it. I asked for extra limes and a side of cilantro and they brought me a whole small bowl of each (and did not charge extra). I think they brought me 12-15 wedges of very juicy limes. I found the broth to be wonderfully beefy tasting and flavorful (better than many I have had in the SG valley). It was absolutely delicious! Other than that, mom had green tea (2.50) which she thought was great and I ordered the iced tea (2.50) which came with a small pot of simple syrup (only the second place in LA that I have gotten that with my tea).
          Ordered a 2-order of Spring Rolls ($4.75) for my mom to take home. Total bill for all was $18.40 before tip. Definitely more pricey than I am used to but for the location I think it is worth it and the place and service really is nice. Will definitely go back for a quick bite if I am in the area, but when at home in Pasadena, I will always go to Pho 79 in Alhambra first.
          As already mentioned there seem to be a lot of Asian restaurants sprouting up in Montrose. Zen looks really good and they have a beautiful space. There is also that Sushi place right next door to Pho which looked very good too. Will definitely have to try!

          1. Pho 21 is good, not that much more expensive, and fresh. But i must admit they're spring rolls/egg rolls are not worth it.
            I went to Zen Bistro once and they decor was nice and food was okay..but it was way too expensive. I'd rather go to Boba/Noodle world in pasadena for some thai/viet. food.