Red Bank, NJ 07701
- Cost: $$
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Street
- Take Out: Yes
September 8, 2011
A late summer beach day at Sandy Hook provided the opportunity to stop for dinner with the kids in Red Bank. I had high hopes for Pho Le, opened in April 2011 by the previous owner of Lincroft’s Saigon II (now closed). I had never made it to the Lincroft restaurant, but both Saigon II and Pho Le have some decent reviews on the web.
Pho Le does a brisk business. So brisk on a Saturday at 6:30 pm that the two servers dealing with the ten or so tables and small counter were overwhelmed. We got one of the last free tables. A number of customers after us were clearly frustrated as a couple of tables with “reserved” signs sat empty and other groups lingered waiting for food or to pay.
Unfortunately, the food we tried doesn’t match what you can get at other Vietnamese spots in Jersey. The Summer Rolls with shrimp and pork, served with peanut sauce, are decent, but do not stand out. Shrimp and Scallop Stir Fry with vegetables is fine, but no strong flavors.
I ordered the Beef Pho, hoping for a characteristically rich and flavorful broth. I can’t compare Pho Le’s broth with others I have tried, however, because when the entrees arrived, I was given Chicken Pho by our harried server. It had taken so long for the dishes to arrive, correcting the order would have taken too long. With all of the accompanying basil leaves and jalapeno slices in the broth, the Chicken Pho broth is spicy, but unremarkable. The best dish on our table was the wonton soup my daughter ordered, with flavorful homemade dumplings.
I can’t say that Pho Le is worth a visit based on one meal, especially if you’re willing to travel 28 miles up the Parkway and Route 287 for some amazing Vietnamese food in South Plainfield. We couldn’t try the banh mi on Pho Le’s lunch menu. I will keep Pho Le on my list of places to try for now, because I’d really like to try those banh mi, and some day, the Beef Pho.