By SUSAN ERICSON
In Vietnamese, “pho” means soup. On Broad Street in Red Bank, the enormous bowls of soup at Pho Le are just what you want for lunch in this freezing winter weather.
Wood paneling and artwork on the walls add a level of comfort to the space, where you can grab a quick lunch at the counter or take your time at a table.
When it’s zero degrees outside, sitting down to a steaming bowl of soup has some appeal. At Pho Le, there are 14 varieties of pho on the menu, some bringing serious spicy heat to the bowl.
Condiments to add to your soup – or not – come on separate plates, and include rice noodles and jalapenos. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
The S1 bowl of soup, or fragrant sweet and sour soup with shrimp ($10) comes in a large bowl filled with a tamarind-scented broth, big pieces of shrimp, okra pods, tomato, Asian rhubarb, and a side bowl of rice noodles. The sweet in the soup comes compliments of big chunks of fresh pineapple.
It is the spicy heat, though, that makes this lunchtime favorite so good. It’s brought on by both the red pepper flakes you can see floating around and the jalapenos. A side dish filled with bean sprouts, lime and more jalapenos allows you to add as much or as little to temper heat in the soup. Unlike the thicker, often gooier Chinese hot and sour soup, this one is a thinner, richer broth, with a heat that is not for the faint of heart.
Other soup options on the menu run the gamut from mild wonton and chicken noodle varieties to the spicier Tom Yam and curry bases. The prices start at $8 and go up to $14 for a much larger, family-sized bowl that can be shared by a few.
Pho Le does tend to get quite busy, and the wait for your order can be at times frustrating, with table service a bit spotty. So PieHole suggests you bring a patient attitude, or better yet, phone in your order and go the takeout route.