Did it not take forever for Pho Cali in Kirkwood Plaza (no relation to Pho Cali in Philly) on Kirkwood Highway to open up? I pretty much gave up on the place, and when it did open up about four months ago, they neglected to make a website (inexcusable nowadays), and neglected to answer the phone (because Google lists the number incorrectly...and that's why you should have a website) the few times I tried to call and ask the very most important question a Pho-seeking vegetarian has: Do you serve a Pho made with vegetable broth?
So, yeah, I wrote them off. That is until Spark, Wilmington's free weekly, reported back that the vegetable and tofu Pho at Pho Cali uses vegetable broth. Sign me back up!
Soup is the hardest thing for vegetarians to eat when dining out, because they're invariably made with meat stock, and only the most conscious kitchens offer up a vegetable-based soup. So, always a soup skeptic, I asked if Pho Cali's vegetable and tofu Pho was made with vegetable stock, and, sadly, it is not. It's made with chicken stock. Or, at least that's what my server told me, and what a person on the phone told me when I called back later to double check. Meat-stock-Pho is the norm at most Pho shops, but it sure would be nice if everyone offered a veggie option.Aw, well! I was already sitting at one of the bright green booths in the stark, white walled, beige tiled, strip mall restaurant with plasma TV's at either end of the room, so decided to order the one vegetarian Bun dish: a bowl or rice vermicelli topped with fried tofu and onions sauteed with lemongrass and chilis. Tucked on the side of the bowl are shredded carrots, shredded iceberg lettuce, cucumber sticks, mung beans sprouts, and chopped peanuts to be stirred about with the side dish of nuoc cham brought to the table, and any of the various condiments already sitting on the table, such as garlic chili paste, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and chilis in oil.
For $5.95, the huge bowl of veggie Bun is a good deal, and the sweet and spicy fried tofu is the tasty centerpiece of the dish, but only hints at the strong lemongrass flavors the menu alluded to. And, I would have loved to have seen some strongly flavored herbs like cilantro, basil, mint, or scallions either already in the bowl or brought out in a dish for me to add to the Bun.
The tops of the condiment bottles are a little crusty, and one hole on the soy sauce bottle at my table was clogged, so it'd be nice to see Pho Cali clean these up daily.
With no veggie Pho, or veggie egg rolls or spring rolls (I really wanted the spring roll-topped Bun), and only a fried rice dish and a couple noodle dishes for vegetarians, I can't see myself going out of my way to visit Pho Cali on Kirkwood, but if I were closer I certainly would stop in occasionally.
It's just nice to see Wilmington finally get a Pho restaurant! And Pho Cali offers dim sum on Saturday and Sunday.
Want to know what's on Pho Cali's menu? No problem! Just click the pic to enlarge.
4373 Kirkwood Hwy Wilmington, DE 19808
Open daily, 11am-10pm