I have been craving a bowl of Pho (Vietnamese beef & noodle soup), so I decided to forgo my usual Pho stop, Tru Trinh at 2344 S. 27th Street (which was reviewed her a few years ago) and check out Phan’s Garden. Located at 19th & National across from the Clarke Square Pick n’ Save, Phan’s Garden has a diverse menu of Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. Like Tru Trinh, it is located in what was at one time a corner bar. The location of this restaurant is in a neighborhood with an interesting mix of cultures and cuisines, primarily southeast Asian and Mexican. Across the street from the restaurant a vendor was selling frozen Mexican treats. Head west you will find Asian restaurants and grocers across the street from Mexican restaurants and grocers.
I ordered a small bowl of the Pho Dac Biet ($5.75), which is a beef Pho with noodles. They also have seafood, chicken, shrimp and bbq pork, combination, and too many other soups to list. The homemade broth was piping hot and had that shimmering appearance as a result of the fat extracted in the broth making process. The bowl was filled with noodles, thin slices of nicely marbled beef, and green onions. On the site were the usual Pho accouterments, which allows you to finesse your Pho in the manner you choose. There are jalapenos and Sriracha sauce for heat, lime to brighten up the soup and add a fresh flavor, hoisin sauce to add some sweetness and to tame the jalapeno and Sriracha sauce, bean sprouts to add crunch, and Thai basil to add another layer of flavor. My recommendation is to taste the soup before you add anything. Creole chefs tell you its bad etiquette to add file’ or hot sauce to your bowl of gumbo until you taste it. After the first bite you can do whatever you want. The broth was very good (though not quite as complex and flavorful as Tru Trinh). I added all of the side items to tailor the broth to my tastes. I especially like adding jalapeno peppers as they slowly release their heat into the soup. The longer they sit, the hotter the broth becomes. There were plenty of beef strips in the soup and by leaving a small amount of fat on each thinly sliced strip they guaranteed that the beef wouldn’t taste dry.
I also tried an appetizer of Goi Cuon ($4.50), whch was two Vietnamese spring rolls (not fried) wrapped around pork, shrimp, and cold noodles. The rolls were served with a peanut sauce with a drizzle of Siracha hot sauce to add some heat. To be honest I was kind of underwhelmed by these. The peanut sauce was the saving grace. There was a very small amount of pork in the rolls. They would have greatly benefited from additional pork, some lettuce of some sort and some herbs like cilantro, mint or Thai basil.
Service was ok but nothing spectaculer. They initially delivered the wrong food to my table and it was hard to find someone when it was time to pay the bill, but otherwise it was ok. My water glass was replenished before it ever had a chance to get empty which was nice.
Despite the mediocre appetizer I will definitly return to Phan’s garden and will likely do it soon. I am interested in the numerous Vietnamese dishes. Of particluar interest are the Chim Cut Quay, which are two roasted quails atop a salad and thier spicy Lemongrass chicken. While I prefer the Pho at Tru Trhin, Phan’s is still very good.
Phan’s Garden is located at 1923 W. National Avenue in Milwaukee. Phone: (414) 384-4522. Here is an OnMilwaukee review from 2003.
EatWisconsin Rating: 3 out of 5.
Rating Guide: 0=Absolutely terrible, avoid at all costs, 1=Bad, 2=Mediocre/Average, 3= Admirable, 4=Excellent, 5=Sublime