Instead of doing a lengthy Militant Angeleno post, the Militant decided once and for all to get going on this Mess Hall thing. He was waiting for the right kind of establishment to review in this here food blog, but it would have been a tough call, especially since the more iconic eats in town have already been well-covered. So the Militant decided to start this here food blog the was he started his now-legendary main blog - by simply jumping in. So here goes...
Koreatown - quirky, vibrant and always open. It's also the home stretch for the Militant's now-weekly nocturnal bike rides between the compound and the Mid-City area. But on Tuesday night, after biking for several miles in chilly 45-degree weather, and trying to combat a mild cold, what better way to do it than to try something streaming hot?
Most people are puzzled why there are so many Vietnamese noodle soup joints in Koreatown - especially since the overwhelming majority are Korean-owned. The answer lies in an imported trend: In the mid-late 1990s, the biggest food rage in Seoul, South Korea was Vietnamese pho restaurants. With a local palate that was already accustomed to noodles, pho was the exotic new flavor in South Korea that got a whole nation slurpin'.
It wasn't long until Korean entrepreneurs, cashing into an already tested market, imported a cuisine which itself was imported to their country. Of course, a lot of the Militant's operatives of Asian-but-not-Korean descent have criticized the Korean expatriate business community for seemingly co-opting everything from karaoke to sushi...and now this.
Aw man, the Militant is getting lengthy again. Okay, on to the food...
So the Militant stopped by a join called Pho 4000 in Koreatown on Western Avenue near 4th St (all you 4th Street bicycle commuters might wanna check this place out), nestled in a lateral minimall called the Omni Plaza (Oooh, sounds like some sports venue, eh?).
He first heard about it from a certain food operative who told him that "Pho 4000 is twice as good as Pho 2000." The Militant had been to Pho2K many times...it's aite, but it's another Pho-rean joint where authenticity is sacrificed and the mint leaves don't appear fresh.
He was ready to park his bike along the railing when the valet parking attendant started to get his attention. "Oh great," the Militant said. But all the attendant wanted him to do was to chain his bike further in (probably not to have the bike stick out into the parking lot). So all was cool.
Right, the food.
The Militant went ahead and ordered the "Number 6," which was the Pho Gai, a.k.a. Chicken Pho. Within minutes the plate of onions and an accompanying plate of bean sprouts, mint leaves, cilantro, lime slices and chiles appeared. All looked fresh and unspoiled. So far so good.
Then the soup came out. It really hit the spot, but of course it was 45 degrees outside. Nevertheless, the broth was good, yet subtle, but not sweet like the Pho-rean places are prone to do.
The best part? There was a television near the kitchen playing soap opera videotapes...in Vietnamese . The middle-aged woman attending to the counter and separating bundled dry noodles while watching the soap operas had a phone conversation in her native language, and the Militant knew for a fact that it definitely didn't sound Korean. And once he passed by the business license on display, the applicant was one "Kip Van Le." Yup, that sealed the deal. This was no Pho-rean joint, it was definitely Vietnamese run. The Militant was ecstatic at this discovery. This would make Pho 4000 the second Vietnamese-run pho joint n K-town (after Pho Viet on 3rd and Vermont). Hooray for authenticity!
The decor is nouvelle-spartan, the kind that looks more like a nightclub than a homey family-run business, which was fine in this case. There are also a few paintings depicting Vietnamese countryside life hanging on the walls. Its humbling simplicity is a welcome contrast to the aforementioned (Korean-owned) Pho 2000, which has the audacity to boast on its placemats not only the health benefits of pho, but the fact that President Bill Clinton once visited the original Pho 2000 in Ho Chi Minh City, despite the fact that the Koreatown Pho 2000 has no affiliation whatsoever with the original Vietnam-based eatery.
So the Militant's food operative was definitely right, Pho 4000 definitely was twice as good as Pho 2000. Being relatively close to K-Town and too far from Little Saigon in the OC, this is the Militant's go-to place for pho. The Militant's only complaint was that service was pretty much nonexistent once the food arrived. No one was around to fill his water glass.
The Militant gives Pho 4000 7 out of 10 clenched fists.
414 S. Western Avenue #B (at 4th St.)
Open 7am-3am daily.
Item: Pho Gai (#6) , $5.95