Pho Ellie — diamond in the rough

I rarely go to Fullerton but on this occasion my BFF Sunny and I were attending to some business in the area and lost track of time. By the time we realized, our stomachs were growling, and needed food STAT, but neither of us had the energy to venture far from where we were in search of a place to eat. What to do?

Luckily, within walking distance of where we were at was a Vietnamese place and even though I didn’t have time to check on Yelp (they have a 3 and a half star average) we decided to give it a shot anyway, at least to satiate the hunger pangs for the moment.

BFF is from Indonesia so she commented on the sign outside Pho Ellie stating they serve “halal” meat. This means the restaurant caters to Muslims who ordinarily aren’t able to eat the beef served in regular restaurants. There is also no pork on the menu.

I am always skeptical when it comes to really clean and new looking Vietnamese restaurants. I guess I’m just used to getting great food at hole-in-the-wall joints in lil Saigon and most of the nicer places tend to cater to the masses rather than staying true to their roots.

We were famished and ordered a lot. I figured if we don’t finish it, we can just take it home. What’s the big deal, right?

We started with Ellie’s spring rolls ($3.95), two rolls arrived looking rather dismal because they were limp and uninspiring, not tightly wrapped like they normally are. We took a bite and were surprised at how good they tasted.

Filled with chicken, lettuce, shrimp and served with a not-too-sweet dipping sauce, they were definitely a tasty start even if they weren’t as aesthetically a work of art. We laughed about pre-judging them on their looks and devoured them rather quickly.

Rare steak and brisket pho ($5.75) is next and comes piping hot. The broth is dark and the aroma of star anise fills the air. I took a sip of it marveling at how flavorful and rich it tasted without being greasy.

They are not stingy on the meat either and a plate of fresh herbal condiments graces the table to add to the al dente pho noodles. We were both surprised that pho of this caliber can be found outside of lil Saigon (why can’t that be the same for Irvine?).

Grilled shrimp and egg roll rice vermicelli ($6.95) or bun, is smaller in size than places I frequent, but again, everything from the grilled shrimp and the fried eggrolls are cooked to perfection and seasoned well.

Vegetables such as cucumbers, cilantro and lettuce add a great freshness, while pickled daikon and carrots tasted homemade. The crushed peanuts are ample and together, created a really delicious plate!

Our final dish of lemongrass chicken rice plate ($6.95) is a stir fry of chicken strips in a lemongrass sauce, served with a deliciously fragrant butter, garlic and parsley rice.

Although the soy dipping sauce is great over the rice, it is not needed to help enhance the already flavorful chicken and caramelized onions.

Not surprisingly, BFF and I polished off EVERYTHING. This always happens whenever we’re together — she’ll say she’s not hungry so don’t order a lot, or she’ll say “that’s too much”, but ends up eating more than I do and she’s half my size!

Pho Ellie is a hidden gem. I’m glad we gave it a shot, otherwise we would’ve missed out on some very tasty fare.

Pho Ellie
765 S State College Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92831
Tel: 714-879-1004

Pho Ellie on Urbanspoon

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