Disclousure: I was invited to a media tasting. All thoughts are my own
I’ve been a fan of Vietnamese cuisine for years. Yet, I don’t seem to have enough opportunities to try it because I’m not sure if the restaurant looks worthy from the store front, or there just aren’t enough locations to try in the places where I frequently travel.
I was given the opportunity to eat at the Pho Factory in Irvine recently with a friend, and we were delighted with the results. We learned from the owner that there are up to 20 Pho restaurants in Irvine. So it’s difficult to stand out simply by the name or location.
They are located in a small shopping center at the corner of Jeffrey and Irvine Center Drive in Irvine, just a few minutes from the Spectrum and the 405 or 5 freeways. It was easy to find (across from Irvine Valley College), with plenty of parking.
Pho Factory Interior
There was sufficient table seating, spread out among a few rooms with plenty of seating outside on the covered patio. It was quite warm out so we chose inside seating.
Pho Factory Menu
We started with a Vietnamese coffee, which is a mix of iced coffee and espresso, condensed milk, and sugar. As a coffee lover, I was really impressed with this drink and we also learned that they have a sister restaurant It’s called Coffee Factory, located in Little Saigon. Pho Factory’s coffee comes from there, and I would recommend even a stop here in Irvine for their coffee alone. It was delicious, and strong.
We were anticipating a big meal with some Pho (of course…!) and other options, so we kept the appetizers small and traditional. We ordered the Bao (pork filled buns with egg) and spring rolls (rice paper wrapped around vegetables and shrimp, with peanut dipping sauce. The Bao breed was slightly sweet with tender pork, and the egg mixed the flavors nicely. The spring rolls were light and crunchy in the center from the vegetables. The rice paper wrap has an elastic feel, so they have a unique texture for people who have never tried them. I would suggest you do, especially if you enjoy peanut sauce.
For a thirst quencher, we tried two of their special fruit teas: strawberry and mango. Each had a very interesting and healthy blend that’s difficult to describe. Treat yourself to the mango tea – this was one of the best fruit drinks I had ever tasted. Each had fresh chunks of fruit mixed evenly with the tea plus chia seeds for added health benefits and texture. The strawberry was tasty too, but the texture was slightly different: a bit thinner in consistency, with added boba in the bottom. For those who never tried boba, it’s a tapioca ball that rests in the bottom of the drink. Upon suction through the wide straw, it rises quickly to the top to land in your mouth and burst upon impact or force. I like it, but it’s a very strange feeling for some because it has the feeling of jello squirting. Try it and see…I’m sure you could try it with or without boba if you are new to the experience. Pho Factory creates the tea recipes, and really knows what mixes well together.
Next we sampled the Vietnamese sandwich, with thin sliced pork, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, mayonnaise, and “special” sauce on a crisp French roll. It was delicious and amazing in every way – flavor (spicy, tangy, and savory), texture, and appearance.
But wait… isn’t this restaurant called the Pho Factory? Of course we ordered the Pho, with filet mignon and flank steak. It may be difficult to rate a Pho dish unless you eat it quite often or had it as a traditional food in your family growing up. I usually eat Pho a couple of times a year, so I’m no expert. But I normally look for the basic principles of light flavors, tender and fresh meat, smooth noodles that don’t overload the dish, and fresh vegetables. This Pho was excellent and I’ve never had such tender beef in this dish before. They obviously care for their food quality here, and we really enjoyed it.
We were quite hungry when we ordered, and the owner suggested that we also try their lemongrass chicken dish. This was delicious and, became one of our favorites. The fresh tender chicken was mixed well with mildly spicy flavors, without overpowering the dish.
We were comfortably full, and yet the meal would not have been complete without a taste of one of their sweet desserts. We chose the tiramisu (vs. the pineapple coconut cake) and it was very nice: the flavor mix was clear with every bite: nutmeg, cream, and sweet cake. It had the perfect texture as well. I believe they also get their desserts from local French bakeries, and the quality showed through.
We thoroughly enjoyed the quality, variety, and hospitality of this restaurant. This reminds me that going out for Vietnamese food should be more than a rare occasion, and I’ve found my favorite place to visit. The service was also fast, friendly, and efficient. They are open from morning until evening, so there’s no excuse to miss out. Here are a few of their menu options for some last examples of the variety. Prices are quite affordable as well, so be prepared to get your money’s worth for a tasty meal – or just a special coffee or tea.
Get Social With Pho Factory
**This was a guest post written by David Steinberg.