First look: Pho Lee -- a sibling of Pho 95 -- opens in Greenwood Village
Oh, pho the love of noodles! Denver's culinary landscape, as several industry insiders noted in my comprehensive trend piece that ran a few weeks ago, is stamped -- liberally -- with pho cafes, and now, as we start the New Year, there's yet another new pho parlor, which, if the pace keeps up, could very well make 2013 the year that Denver, and the outlying suburbs, gets pho-king slammed.
Pho Lee, a convivial spot in Greenwood Village, is the latest foray into the pho cult, and its affable owner, Dung Anh Le, is one of the brothers of Aaron Le, who operates two branches of Pho 95 -- one on Federal that recently relocated from its original location, also on Federal, and the other at the Streets at SouthGlenn. Clearly, pho runs in the Le family (another Le brother oversees Pho 96, also on Federal).
"I worked at the original Pho 95 on Federal for three years with Aaron, and learned just about everything I could about running a restaurant, and when this space opened up, I thought it would be a great opportunity to have my own pho place," says Dung, who runs the restaurant with his wife and mother-in-law, the latter of whom is the chef.
But while there are several similarities to Pho 95 on the menu -- pho, of course -- Dung has expanded the repertoire, incorporating several Thai dishes to complement the full-flavored pho, enhanced by fresh herbs; epic Vietnamese noodle bowls -- perhaps the best I've had in Denver; steamed-rice dishes; bobas and smoothies. "A lot of people came in wanting pho, but also wanting Thai food, so we've added a few Thai dishes, some different appetizers and we're also running a lot of specials," he says.
And while the space is small and sparse -- as most pho shops are -- business, at least during a late lunch last week, was brisk, with large groups slurping their noodles and broth with unabashed gusto. "The first few weeks were a little rough," admits Dung, acknowledging that its location, wedged into a strip mall hidden from the street, makes it difficult for people to find. But, he says, "We're seeing a lot more people now, and those people are leaving very happy."
So, too, did I, when I stopped by last week to eat and shoot photos of everything that passed my lips, the photos of which are on the following page.