Some friends of mine recently challenged me on twitter about my lack of pho love and suggested I try Long Thanh to get some that I might like. I was kind of surprised that they liked this place so much because it is really super close to my house and I have never eaten there. I will admit, I went in once shortly after we moved here, and picked up a menu, but just never went back. Since then, they have classed the place up a bit with some décor (I remember it being just pretty much white all over and kind of divey) and some tablecloths. Also, the lady who waited on me both times (one of the husband/wife owners I believe) was really nice and when I came the second time remembered me and asked me if I wanted the same drink.
So I met my friends for lunch shortly after their recommendation to see if they were right. Although, on this first trip, I didn’t order the pho. Just being difficult I guess, but I haven’t found pho in Indy that I really like yet, so I wanted to try something else first and get an idea if I liked the place before I moved on to something that I am obviously kind of picky about. I had a Vietnamese spring roll (you know, the non-fried kind)($2.75 for 2) and the “grilled shrimp noodle”(#54)($6.95). So, I have to admit, those non-fried spring rolls don’t usually really get me going unless they are wrapped really tight and are small and easy to eat. And it helps if there is a fair amount of meat in them (I like to be able to see several shrimp). This one was more like a salad roll with mostly (fresh) greens—lettuce and herbs. There was a little meat in it, but not much. And it was kind of fat and messy and not my favorite thing. They were served with a thick, plum sauce with peanuts on top to dip in though which helped a bit.
I really liked the noodles and shrimp dish though—it was a bowl filled with lettuce and bean sprouts and topped with hot rice noodles, and sautéed shrimp and green onions. There were some crushed peanuts on top as well as some shredded carrots. I really like rice noodles in general—they are lighter and don’t feel so filling and the combo of the nicely cooked shrimp with some noodles and some crunchy veggies from the bottom of the bowl was good. It was served with a light, slightly sweet sauce (with a bit of chili paste and garlic it) that I enjoyed dunking my noodles into. So they were right, I was liking this place.
So the next challenge was to go back and get the pho and see how it went. I met a friend again (different one this time) and we started with the Vietnamese pancake ($6.95). I love these in general, and this one in particular. It was truly like a crepe, they way I like them, light and really thin but perfectly crispy on the edges. Folded inside were sprouts, sautéed onions, pork, shrimp, and with cilantro and romaine lettuce on the side and served with some of the same sauce I had above with my noodles. My only complaint, if I had one, is that the inside stuff was just a little oily, but not so much that it stopped us from eating ALL of it. And it is pretty generous in size. I would certainly get this again. I really really liked how crisp the outside was. Perfect.
So, I got the rare beef pho ($6.75). And guess what? I liked it. This is the first pho I have had in Indy where I felt like the dish really had some flavor. And the flavor comes from the broth—the noodles are the same rice noodles that I had had in the dish before and they are just a complement to the broth really. There are also some sautéed onions and green onions in the bowl as well as the very thin slices of beef. So, of course, there is no way the beef really stays rare in that steaming broth, but these pieces of beef were thin and tender and very good. I thought they were fairly plentiful as well as I kept making sure I got all of them. You are also served a fresh plate with bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalapeno slices and a juicy lime wedge. I did add some of all of this into the bowl, which more than anything added a wonderful aroma. I did not have to add any sauces to it, which I have had to do in the past at other places just to get a little flavor. The broth stood on its own and I can officially say I found a pho that I liked. Cheers to my friends who recommended it (and if you have a favorite pho location, please share!).
5707 East 71st Street