By Michelle Sathe
Good things come to those who wait, but you won’t have to wait long for good things at Pho Ha 888.
Sure, the restaurant spends 16 hours boiling bones, meat, aromatics, and vegetables for the foundational aromatic broth that starts each order of its delicious pho, also known as the national dish of Vietnam.
But you’ll get that fantastic soup plus a massive tangle of perfectly cooked rice noodles and thinly sliced onions within 10 minutes of ordering. There’s also a plate of accoutrements to customize each big bowl of goodness: cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, jalapenos, and lime.
Add some of the spicy sidekick condiments – Sriracha, sambal oelek – or the more sedate hoison sauce to truly make it your own. Then grab some chopsticks and dig in.
Oxtail pho ($11.99) comes with a separate dish of tender, shredded meat that you add to the mix for a pure beefy essence. Several pieces of Korean-BBQ style sliced beef ribs float atop the Kolbi pho ($12.99) and their delicious flavor permeates throughout the smoky broth. Either bowl is a real treat for meat lovers.
If you’re a vegetarian, Pho Ha 888 has you covered. The broth for the vegetable pho ($9.99) starts with organic produce, slowly caramelized until it turns golden brown, then simmered for hours to achieve maximum flavor. Rice noodles, broccoli, tofu, fried tofu, onion, and green onion complete the dish.
There are many more varieties to choose from: meatball, chicken, seafood, brisket, plain, and two combos, ranging from $7.99 to $10.99.
And don’t be shy about asking for a little more broth if it gets low. It’s the goal of owners Jeff Lee and his sister-in-law Jennifer Lee to make you happy and they’ve trained their staff, almost exclusively students and recent graduates from College of the Canyons, to do the same.
Jeff and Jennifer over the former Valencia Pho space 3 years ago, adding new rice and vermicelli dishes to the menu, as well as dozens of teas, bobas, and fresh fruit juices that are a perfect match for Pho Ha 888’s food.
Originally from Korea, Jennifer was inspired to learn about Vietnamese food many years ago after attending a friend’s potluck. She mastered the classics and added her own touches to the menu here.
Jeff is a food scientist who is proud to point out the health benefits of eating at his restaurant.
“There are no cans or powders here, we make everything from scratch every day. Our meats are the highest quality and our produce is organic. This is our food, our house, and we make only the best to share with our customers,” he said.
Jennifer grows much of the restaurant’s produce in her bountiful garden, including the Japanese plums used as a base for a dusty pink, lightly sweet, incredibly refreshing iced drink.
That garden-fresh touch is very evident in the spring rolls ($6.99), basically little hand-held salads wrapped in rice paper, bursting with greens and herbs and rounded out with plump shrimp, dried onion, and glass noodles. Two dipping sauces add a welcome salty or sweet note.
The Banh Mi ($6.99) comes loaded with cucumbers, carrots, radish, and jalapeno, then topped with your choice of pork, chicken, beef or tofu and stuffed in a crusty, chewy roll. It’s an exotic sub sandwich with crunch from the veggies, a kick from the jalapeno, and heft from the savory protein tossed in a tangy, bright red sauce.
Pho Ha 888 provides a fun space to enjoy whatever you choose, with neon touches on the yellow, green, and orange chairs, a festive specials board, and upbeat pop videos playing above the cash register.
The compact space has 10 tables, usually filled with regulars, happily slurping their way through a bowl of pho.
This is true even in the summer, which may sound odd considering the triple digit heat wave Santa Clarita has been experiencing.
But sometimes, weather be damned, you just need a comforting bowl of soup and no one does that better around here than Pho Ha 888.
Pho Ha 888, 23360 West Valencia Boulevard, Valencia. Open Sunday through Thursday, 11 am to 9 pm, and Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 10 pm. For more info, call (661) 254-2134 or visit phovalencia.com.